Mon | Dec 17, 2018

Orville Taylor | Stripping police of dignity

Published:Sunday | July 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM

It is bad enough when ordinary citizens become criminals. Nothing is worse than one who is sworn to uphold the law becoming a crook and violating every single thing that he or she has sworn to. Every single member of the House of Babylon who brings the JCF into disrepute must be 'beaten with many stripes' and even crowns, bars, stars or laurel wreaths, if necessary.

As a matter of fact, police officers should receive greater punishment for breaching the law because they know it more than the average person.

Last week was tainted with the report of a Portland couple who were robbed after a night out and some $700,000 taken from them. Thankfully, they were not harmed physically, although they will be scarred and scared for life. With a speed that would be the envy of a cheetah, police officers swooped down on one of their own, a yet-unidentified cop from St Thomas, and arrested him. True, he was identified by witnesses, and the police officers acted with great certainty that they had the right man. Yet he will face charges and have his day in court. However, he is not guilty until a court finds him so.

 

COMMENDING OFFICERS

 

For that reason, I commend the arresting officers, because despite their intelligence and information, everyone is entitled to due process and, most important, because if it wasn't he who committed the offence, he has to face the public that he has to police. Thus, up to the time this article went to press, the arresting officers had not revealed the name of the constable.

This is in shocking contrast to another incident. Here, a male constable, dressed in full combat gear, was made to strip of all his police paraphernalia by police officers, sworn members of the JCF assigned to the Major Organised and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA).

It was a humiliating arrest and whatever might come of the charges, if any are laid against him, his reputation and his ability to properly police are irreparably damaged. It was not simply the Government-issued hardware that was stripped from the constable. More important, it was his dignity, and depending on how much more of his kit was eventually removed, his manhood might have also been peeled away.

Perhaps the arresting officers believed that they were simply doing their job without fear and partiality. However, it almost seemed that a bit of malice or ill-will might have crept into the procedure. I do not know what is on the letters of appointment that transferred, seconded or assigned the officers to MOCA. Nevertheless, I am pretty sure that the powers that they have to arrest is given to them under the Constabulary Force Act. Indeed, unless someone can tell me otherwise, I am willing to bet my last dollar that every single one of the ununiformed officers in the red and black vest is a serving member of the JCF and has a substantive appointment there.

At this point, until the last bits of the MOCA legislation are passed and the agency becomes a completely autonomous entity whose employees are no longer JCF personnel, all men and women who wore the red stripe or khaki suit before being assigned to MOCA are still members of the House of Babylon. Having said that, it should be noted that the average citizen at this point has no understanding of any difference between MOCA agents and other 'regular' police officer. Police are simply police.

Therefore, any behaviour that embarrasses the JCF will also besmirch the MOCA officers who themselves are still cops. Hardly anyone will remember that the arresting officers were the ones who disarmed their erstwhile colleague in public and made him look like a common crook (even if he is). I cannot ever recall a soldier ever being arrested by military police in such a manner.

I am not a policeman, but from my vantage point, the officers who undressed the constable were in full command of the situation and had a compliant and submissive individual under their control. The arrest could and should have been done in a better fashion.

 

NEVER LIVE IT DOWN

 

Now, up to this point I have no information regarding the identity of the policeman, but all the persons who were ogling and recording know who he is and he will never live it down. I am also not informed as to whether or not the officer was charged after being taken into custody. If the MOCA agents acted on good information and got their man, I have no sympathies for him. A crook is a crook, whether he is a cop, real estate broker, security guard, customs officer, doctor, lawyer, judge, academic, journalist or gardener.

But suppose they made a terrible mistake and the intelligence was only that it was a police officer dressed in full denim and battle kit. Imagine the possibility that the policeman were innocent? What is the likely impact on the morale of the police, both those who report to the major general/commissioner and those who report to the colonel?

At a time when there is great disaffection among the great majority of clean, hard-working men and women, the last thing these good public servants need is to be emasculated, especially when the dominant doctrine is that none of them was good enough to head either body.

Good civilian law enforcement requires humaneness.

- Dr Orville Taylor is senior lecturer in sociology at the UWI, a radio talk-show host, and author of 'Broken Promises, Hearts and Pockets'. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and tayloronblackline@hotmail.com.