Wed | Sep 18, 2019

Orville Taylor | Driving circles around the police

Published:Sunday | August 25, 2019 | 12:28 AM
Kenyon Hemans/Photographer Dennis Dietrih drives the Mercedes-Benz AMG 63 C-Class that was seen performing a dangerous stunt on Dunrobin Avenue in St Andrew. A probe is under way into whether Dietrih was really behind the wheel during the stunt.

One knows that Jamaican police officers have been suffering from burnout, and more so since the new roadworks began two years ago. However, it is a different thing when one makes it worse by attempting to run circles or donuts around the hard-working cops.

With a speed of an estimated 65kph, the velocity of a spin bowler’s delivery, a black German vehicle was shown on social media doing skilful manoeuvres, making rings and creating smoke from the friction on the tyres. It was not the busiest time of the day but there was a large enough number of persons and cars travelling on the thoroughfare. Any slight miscalculation or mechanical failure and a horrific scenario could’ve developed.

This was an asinine act, and thank God that the ass’ hold on the steering didn’t slip. Because with a car with more horsepower than the driver had brains, it could’ve flipped more times than the story that is being played out.

As far as we know, there was no servant of the House of Babylon around when the video was recorded. Moreover, the footage does not appear to come from one of the cameras mounted by JamaicaEye to monitor threats to public order. Therefore, as far as my understanding of admissible evidence goes, unless the source and author of the video are identified and he is willing to appear in court, all the police have is intelligence and information.

Acting on the information, which went viral in cyberspace, the newly assigned head of the police’s Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch (PSTEB), Assistant Commissioner (ACP) Bishop Dr Gary Welsh, acted.

In short order, a little brown fellow, who looks like his feet couldn’t reach the pedals of the vehicle, stepped forward and admitted guilt. My non-lawyer intelligence tells me that an individual stepping forward and confessing to an offence might need other factors in order to be assured that a defence attorney not successfully challenge it as inadmissible.

Non-drivers

For example, we have seen many cases where one passenger in a vehicle owns up to the illegal firearm discovered in the car. Yet, the cops charge all five of them for it. It is certainly not unusual for non-drivers to neatly slip from one seat to the driver’s because the real person at the steering wheel has no licence or had too much to lose.

There is no doubt in my mind that the ACP believed that the contrite ‘driver’ was genuine. Also, given the instructions of Jesus, his ultimate boss, repentance and reprimand are linchpins of how we should relate to each other.

However, men of the clergy can oftentimes push the cloth and raise wrath. In this scenario, his stature as a reverend meant nothing. The question is whether or not his actions were based on him being a member of the constabulary.

Written into the authority of every police officer is the power of discretion. Except where there is a felony or other major infringement, Officer Dibble can give a ‘bly’, a short warning and say, “Go sin no more!” Many of us, both private and ordinary persons and ‘tapanaris’, have benefited from the kindness of police officers. And this is without greasing their palms.

Yet, in exercising such discretion, he must understand the implications of the decision. Thus, if he fails to issue a ticket or charge a former senior cop, a public figure, or anyone who has high social status, what impact does it have later?

Welsh is not just a cop but, most important, he is the top cop at PSTEB. Therefore, he is telling the young police officers monikered ‘canine gonads’ that this is the standard by which we operate.

Been victimised

Indeed, junior cops need to be assured that this approach by the ACP, if duplicated by them, would be applauded. In a constabulary where police officers have been victimised by other cops and where police officers have been given tickets by both their senior and juniors for relatively minor offences, I am sure that many federated ranks are crying “Fowl!”

Welsh might have done what he thought best in the interest of the force but he will learn a hard lesson just like the driver of the vehicle. Cameras are two-edged swords and can be one’s worst enemy.

Nonetheless, as we see the commissioner himself now intervening and keeping the file open, Welsh now seems to believe that the little confessor told a brown lie. From the other images circulating, unless the young man has had a dip in bleaching cream, he appears not to be the person driving the vehicle. That is not funny, because if anyone is to make a fool of a police officer, let it be he himself and not a civilian or another cop.

Still, if the fellow did not make a statement that was recorded in the station diary, did he commit public mischief in law inasmuch as he clearly did so in fact? And if there was an active investigation, can it be deemed that by wilfully misleading the police, he interfered in a police investigation?

This is Jamaica, not the USA, where police officers like donuts. Worse, the driver and his cronies are making the police go around in a circle. But if it goes around, it will come back around just like a donut.

And while there is space in the middle of ordinary donuts, the red centre of jelly donuts always leaks evidence about whose mouth was in it.

- 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.