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Deadly disputes - More than 30 per cent of Jamaica’s murders linked to domestic issues

Published:Sunday | February 19, 2017 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Members of the police force at a domestic violence/conflict resolution training exercise in Kingston last December.

With domestic disputes contributing to between 35 and 37 per cent of the 151 murders committed in the first 41 days of this year, the Police High Command has vowed that a recent initiative to get Jamaicans to partner to fight this scourge will not be abandoned any time soon,

Acting Police Commissioner Novelette Grant recently launched a 'Partners for Prevention' campaign against domestic/intimate partner violence, dubbed 'Love Me To Live, Don't Love Me To Death', and the cops say even though it was kicked off on Valentine's Day it will not be dumped at the end of this month.

"This is not going to go away at the end of February. We have a number of things that we are doing to focus on the youths because we believe that if we empower the youths and start interacting with them from a very young age we are saving the next future leaders of this country," head of the Corporate Communications Unit, Supt Stephanie Lindsay, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday.

According to Lindsay, the campaign theme is fully endorsed by the Ministry of National Security as well as the Ministry of Youth, and forms part of the Jamaica Constabulary Force's celebration of its 150th anniversary.




Lindsay said the acting police commissioner is also adamant that this will not be a nine-day wonder as she wants the force to change this narrative on how intimate partner love is viewed and communicated.

"We have been having quite a number of incidents of violence since the start of the year that are aimed at women and children. This is not confined to 2017, we have been having it for quite some time," Assistant Police Commissioner Ealan Powell told the editors' forum.

"The JCF, as part of a programme to sensitise the public and to get support, arrived at the theme, and decided to put it into action during the month of February. So instead of a man saying 'I love you to death,' let's turn that around to 'I love you to live'," added Powell.

He noted that the police have been called to murder scenes where family members or lovers kill each other over the simplest of things.

According to Powell, the treatment of domestic violence as a 'man and women business' where neighbours or friends do not get involved can no longer continue.

"It has to be taken seriously by all stakeholders, including the police and churches, otherwise we will leave children with one dead parent and one in prison, and the young children left to fend for themselves," argued Powell.

He noted that every police division now has a 'domestic violence tsar' while more than 400 cops have been trained to specifically deal with the issue.




For Det Insp Claudette Hepburn, of the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA), domestic violence is a particular challenge in rural Jamaica.

"We have been in those areas sensitising people how to deal with disputes. How to deal with your partner if there is a conflict. At CISOCA, we realise that when the sexual offences come they usually stem from some form of abuse which would have started before," said Hepburn, as she noted that the police have been pointing persons to the different organisations that can provide assistance before the dispute escalates.

The police Chaplaincy Unit has been forced to respond to several incidents where members, or former members, of the Force were involved in domestic disputes which ended violently, but Force Chaplain Gary Buddoo-Fletcher says there has been some improvement over the past year.

According to Buddoo-Fletcher, the Chaplaincy Unit offers social, physiological and spiritual support to the men and women of the Force and their families.

"Our role is not so much external of the JCF. However, we do offer service in the sense that we help to train volunteer chaplains, and we have approximately 500 across Jamaica, and we also partner with the churches to promote various programmes the JCF has.

"In this context, Love Me To Live, Don't Love Me to Death initiative, we are on board," added Buddoo-Fletcher, who has buried two members of the Force involved in domestic disputes since he started his tenure as chaplain.