Mon | Jul 22, 2019

Peter Espeut | The dark decades of the JCF

Published:Friday | May 3, 2019 | 12:29 AM

In an interview with Nationwide talk-show host Cliff Hughes last Monday (April 29, 2019), acting deputy police commissioner in charge of crime, Fitz Bailey, said that the suspected murder of a businessman, Sheldon ‘Junior Biggs’ Daley, allegedly by three rogue policemen, is a dark day for the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

I could not agree more, but I would have to add that it is only one dark day out of many dark days for the JCF over the last 50 years.

I was at the National Stadium on February 2, 1971, for the football match between Santos of Brazil and Chelsea of England when Edison Arantes do Nascimento – better known as Pelé – playing for Santos, scored the goal in the 1-0 win. I saw an enthusiastic youth invade the field to hug Pelé, and as he was being beaten with a baton by the police, I saw Pelé hug him to shield him and take some of the blows. I think that was a dark day for the JCF.

In August 1999, Michael Gayle, a rephrase young man, was taken off his bicycle and beaten by policemen on the street during a cordon-and-search operation. He vomited blood in the police station and later died of the wounds. I think that was a dark day for the JCF.

Then there was the killing of the ‘Braeton Seven’ at 1088 Fifth Seal Way on March 14, 2001, and the killing of four persons at Kraal, Clarendon, on May 7, 2003. I think those were dark days for the JCF.

In Negril in 2010, numerous eyewitnesses reported that Fredrick ‘Mickey’ Hill was confronted by a group of seven or eight policeman, some wearing masks or with ‘kerchiefs’ tied over their faces. They demanded that he tell them what was in a ‘scandal’ bag that he had. In the process of showing them the contents – cornmeal and condensed milk – the police opened fire, and Hill was shot at least three times at point-blank range. He died on the spot. Another load of policemen came and removed Hill’s body in the back of a police jeep, while the original police party got back in the police bus and drove away. I think that was a dark day for the JCF.

On June 2, 2012, Jamaican police shot dead 25-year-old Kavorn Shue at his home on Jarrett Lane off Mountain View Avenue. The police reported that he had fired at a team of officers who had gone to his house, who returned the fire, and Shue was shot dead. Jarrett Lane residents said that the youth was asleep and was taken from his bed and shot in cold blood by the police.

Shue was the sports coordinator for the Mountain View Police Youth Club and was preparing to join the police force. The police admitted that the assassination was a case of mistaken identity. I think that was a dark day for the JCF.

WILL IT END?

I have been writing about extrajudicial police killings for over 25 years in this column through the tenure of many national security ministers, including K.D. Knight, Peter Phillips, and Horace Chang – under whose watch police killings were of world-beating standards. In 2017, Jamaica had the highest rate of police killings in the world! I think that these have been dark decades for the JCF and for their masters in the political directorate.

In his contribution to the 2018 Sectoral Debate, newly minted National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang announced that “during this financial year, there will be a holistic approach to police transformation, moving from a Force to an effective, efficient service”.

Minister Chang announced: “We are far advanced, Mr Speaker, with the drafting of the legislation to govern the new police service, as well as an effective oversight mechanism for policing functions”.

In 2019, we are still in the dark days of the JCF – and of their masters in the political directorate. Will it ever end?

Peter Espeut is a sociologist and a development scientist. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.