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INDECOM boss wants less deadly weapons for cops

Published:Friday | August 15, 2014 | 8:00 AM
Terrence Williams, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations. - FILE

Mark Titus, Gleaner Writer

WESTERN BUREAU:

TERRENCE WILLIAMS, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), has renewed the age-old call for members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to be provided with non-lethal weapons as a way of reducing the number of preventable fatal shootings.

"The time has come, long ago, for our police to have non-lethal weapons," said Williams, while addressing a meeting of the Rotary Club of Falmouth in Trelawny on Tuesday.

" … For a decade, we have had 200 persons dying a year at the hands of the police, so it's now time for the police to have options apart from the gun."

In looking at alternatives used by the police in confrontations with criminals in other jurisdictions such as the United States, Williams said a taser (stun gun) could be effectively used to subdue a person without any loss of life.

"One of those options is the taser, which can bring a person down without the same risk of life being lost to that person or bystanders," said Williams.

SIMILAR PROPOSAL

Security Minister Peter Bunting made a similar proposal in January 2012 and received a commitment for support from the United States for batons, handcuffs, pepper spray and equipment belts for the JCF.

The INDECOM boss, who was speaking against the background of recent incidents in which mentally ill persons have been killed in confrontations with the police, argued that despite budgetary constraints under which the State now operates, the non-lethal approach is crucial if lives are to be saved.

In a Force Orders in September 2012, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington called on senior officers within the ranks of the JCF to conduct greater risk assessments before deploying the men and women under their command to undertake certain operations.

Ellington intimated that in some operations, police officers should not be issued with certain weapons as the risk assessment would show that less lethal weapons would be adequate.

"Greater responsibility will be placed on senior persons responsible for briefing, debriefing and dispatching personnel who may have conducted themselves contrary to the policies of the JCF," Ellington noted at the time.

mark.titus@gleanerjm.com