Mon | Jun 24, 2019

Orville Taylor | Pushing one’s luck with security and justice

Published:Sunday | February 10, 2019 | 12:29 AM
In a country where we have an INDECOM and myriad oversight entities within and outside of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), any person who feels wronged by the police has a right to challenge it in the courts.

Whether he did it because he was under duress or something else which sounds like it, or he had taken a swig of a popular milk-based drink, or he thought that somehow, the rubbers on the wheels of the motor vehicle would have prevented him from getting shot, the short man was in for a rude awakening. As a matter of fact, he is lucky that he had any wake-up call at all, because he could have started the next morning as dead as a doornail.

I watched the footage over and over again and am still wondering if the bus driver in Spaldings had a copious dose of psychotic feline urine.

It played out in full view of the public. Voices were heard chiding the police sergeant and police on the whole. However, there were also a few mutterings of the policeman having patience. As the drama unfolded, the sarge, apparently of the impression that he had the legal basis under the Road Traffic Act for seizing the minibus driven by a man in blue, began to instruct the tow truck to upload the minibus and cart it away.

Others might have heard the exchange, but my impression is that the officer began to apprehend fear although he tried to keep a calm demeanour. Then suddenly and without provocation or cause, the younger looking man ‘chucked’ the older man from the House of Babylon, who staggered and teetered. But like a good KC student, he didn’t yield.

Somehow, the pusher only had the backing of his fists but the cop was armed and Pusherman did not know what ‘Glock a strike’. In the end, his efforts at foolish bravado did not succeed and got him a big ‘F’. The policeman had run out of patience and the short man became one.

Doubtless, not everybody agrees with the police. Indeed, a vigilante used a stone in retaliation for the cop’s shooting of his hot-headed buddy. However, sensible Jamaicans know that at a minimum, the attack on the armed policeman was an act of tomfoolery; and I shudder to think what he would do to other civilians with whom he might have a dispute.

AMONG THE BEST IN THE WORLD

The response to any disagreement with any action in law is hardly ever lawlessness. This is more so for countries where there are robust democracies and free access to the justice system. In a country where we have an INDECOM and myriad oversight entities within and outside of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), any person who feels wronged by the police has a right to challenge it in the courts. And never mind the fact that it is imperfect and that the survey indicates that a very small minority of judges are kinks in the system. Our judges and justice system are among the best in the world and the level of corruption is miniscule by global and hemispheric standards.

My position regarding the seizing of motor vehicles in the presence of the drivers is well known. This is not a case where a masked crusader like Batman tries to sneak up and attack the vehicle from behind without any identification. Here, we have Sergeant Dibble, in full ‘pretty clothes’ and number displayed on his chest, who people know.

For those who think that the police used disproportionate force, ask yourselves the questions: Did the attacker show that he was going to overpower the policeman? Was he attempting to (illegally) possess a weapon? Did the attack continue after the police officer was backing away or falling? And for the record, let me advise that the international and JCF’s Use of Force policy would protect the officer.

In my considered opinion, the only charge the officer should face is the tackle from the assailant, or the boost he got from the crowd. Our justice system will work if you humble yourself and try it.

This is exactly the same message I wanted to have given to my advocate friend, who also failed to follow good sense. She lost a defamation suit to the tune of $16 million because whoever guided her, including her own intuition, didn’t make her understand the implications of a default judgement or refusing to withdraw statements she could not corroborate with evidence.

What is worse, she had persons with senior academic qualifications advising her. Somehow, none of the regular tribalist lawyers, who pretend that they are interested in equality, and protection of sexual minorities, seemed to have had an interest in using the very legal system to guide her to how to operate.

MUST RESPECT LEGAL SYSTEM

As I have consistently argued in this column and on air, grand narratives and assertions, whichever syllable you emphasise, do not equate to proof or legal or academic truth. Lawyers and academic researchers, especially those who are pursuing or have higher degrees, know this more than the average person. We have a legal system that we must respect and except for parliamentarians in Parliament, no one has the right to make unsubstantiated statements about living persons, even if the statement is ‘true’ but cannot be proven.

Worse, it is sheer disrespect to avoid answering a charge in court because of some empty diatribe that “The status quo is patriarchy and male preference”. A female judge in a female-dominated judiciary understands that rules of evidence are simply that. Rules! The privilege of making unsupported statements about others is exactly that; a privilege! And Parliament, in its wisdom, kept it only to itself. Rules of evidence, as flawed as they might be, also protect the vulnerable, including the very set of persons who my unwise friend acted on behalf of.

After pusherman was subdued, the police ended his justified shooting. Let us see whether the vindicated Christian shall demand his pound of flesh like Shylock in The Merchant of Venice.

Nevertheless, real friends always advise hotheads when to cool it and not boost them into crockery.

- Dr Orville Taylor is head of the Department of 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.