Wed | Oct 18, 2017

'Disturbing!' - Probe launched after cops caught on video in tussle with woman

Published:Monday | July 25, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson
Images taken from a video posted on Facebook of an altercation between police and a woman in Gordon Town, St Andrew.
Senior Superintendent of Police Terrence Bent
Images taken from a video posted on Facebook of an altercation between police and a woman in Gordon Town, St Andrew.
Images taken from a video posted on Facebook of an altercation between police and a woman in Gordon Town, St Andrew.
Images taken from a video posted on Facebook of an altercation between police and a woman in Gordon Town, St Andrew.
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The relationship between Jamaican citizens and the 151-year-old Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is facing renewed scrutiny as a "disturbing" video showing St Andrew policemen kneeling on a woman's abdomen and grabbing her by the hair as they seek to carry out an arrest has gone viral.

The Inspectorate of the Constabulary is probing the incident, and a report is expected to be submitted by tomorrow to Commissioner of Police Dr Carl Williams.

The unidentified woman, who could be seen resisting the attempts to arrest her, has been charged with doing that as well as using indecent language and unlawful wounding.

She is on bail.

But Terrence Bent, senior superintendent of police and commanding officer for the Area 4 police, in which St Andrew falls, said what took place between the police and the woman in Gordon Town on Saturday afternoon did not look good.

"[It's] disturbing. Some of the things that I saw were clearly not what is required in making an arrest," he told The Gleaner, noting that "if policy is breached, we want to record all of the evidence and then we would want to place that before a tribunal if required to".

Questioned further on what he specifically found disturbing, the senior police officer pointed to the pulling of the woman's hair, which he said "would be outside of what I would consider to be effective and humane treatment of a prisoner".

"I don't want to dig too deep into the content. If the person recording the video does not come forward, that cannot be attributed to anyone and cannot be put into evidence. But I know definitely, the sum of the incident is disturbing," he added.

The video, seen by The Gleaner, is about four and a half minutes long.

Bent said he could not speak conclusively on what led to the tussle, but the video started with shouts of "police brutality" by an onlooker as the woman is pushed on to the side of a police van marked 'Area 4'.

Amid shouts of "Video it!", inaudible exchanges take place among the three. Seconds later, the policemen take out their handcuffs, after which the woman sits on the ground and fights off the attempts to restrain her.

At one point, a policeman holds the woman's hair in an apparent effort to reach her hands.

Soon after, the woman is on her back on the roadside as one policeman kneels on her abdomen.

After she is handcuffed, the policemen force her into their van with shouts of dissent from onlookers.

An individual who posted the video on Facebook and who claimed to have been on the scene said the policemen sought to arrest the woman after she allegedly directed a profane comment at them in response to a similar comment directed at her.

Meanwhile, Bent is warning citizens to be mindful of the dangers when police are executing their duties.

"Oftentimes when things like that happen, persons who are not about law and order, persons take the opportunity to do illegal things. If you have issues, you can raise them at the appropriate place and time," Bent said.

He said a corporal and two constables from the Half-Way Tree police, who were involved in the incident, remain on front-line duty.

The Inspectorate of the Constabulary's Ray Palmer is leading the probe.

Witnesses, several of whom can be seen on the video, are being asked to give statements to the police.

Saturday's incident comes weeks after an incident in which a team of police was accused of shooting into an illegal taxi, injuring a schoolgirl.

In June, a commission of enquiry issued a report on the May 2010 police-military operation that criticised the security forces for their treatment of citizens and made several recommendations for institutional reform.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com