Tue | Jun 18, 2019

Dixon: Clear breach by cops in Rasta case

Published:Monday | May 13, 2019 | 12:37 AMNickoy Wilson/Gleaner Writer

Amid contending accounts of how two Rastafarian boys were fed meat and their hair cut after being carried to the Gordon Town Police Station in St Andrew, the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) says that the police personnel involved were in clear breach of established protocol when they took matters into their own hands.

Rastafarian reggae artiste JahDore, whose given name is Sean McDonald, claimed that police visited his Irish Town, St Andrew, home and forcibly removed his stepchildren – aged four and eight – from the premises and took them to the police station. He also alleged that while he and their mother, Samela Welsh, were being interviewed, his children were taken for haircuts and given chicken to eat.

Orthodox Rastafarians do not cut their hair or eat meat.

Rochelle Dixon, CPSFA public relations and communications manager, told The Gleaner that protocol dictates that all matters relating to breaches of the Child Care and Protection Act ought to be referred to the agency and that the police are aware of that.

Dixon also said that up to the date of the incident, April 30, no report had been filed regarding the specific case.

LAST RESORT

McDonald’s comments corroborate those of Children’s Advocate Diahann Gordon Harrison, who said police are called in only as a last resort after a series of interventions and inquiries from child-welfare officials.

Since the news broke, a team from the CPFSA has been dispatched to the area to conduct an assessment, Dixon said.

However, head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s Corporate Communications Unit, Deputy Superintendent Dahlia Garrick, said that the police were fulfilling their legal obligation when they responded to the report made by the boys’ aunt.

“A report was made to the police about concerns around the children’s care, and the report was actually made by a family member. The police [are] legally obligated to action all reports ... and it’s in light of that report that they went to the house,” Garrick said.

She told The Gleaner that when the police arrived at the house, McDonald was not present, but he came after being called by his partner.

OBJECTIONS

“During that time now, he had some objections about the police being there (his house), and that is why ... a request was made for all to go to the station because the matter had to be attended to,” the CCU head explained, adding that McDonald agreed.

She said that the children, accompanied by a family member, travelled to the police station in the service vehicle, while McDonald, his wife and their seven-month-old child travelled in their personal vehicle.

According to Garrick, after arriving at the police station, Welsh gave permission for her sister to care for her children.

But in a statement issued yesterday, Samela Welsh, who also spoke with The Gleaner by phone, rejected the assertion, saying that she did not assent to her children being placed in the custody of their aunt, Melesha Welsh. She and McDonald argue that the police were culpable for the dietary and haircut violations because they placed the children in the custody of the subjects of a family dispute.

“I am very upset because the police are claiming that I gave my sister custody of my children when I did not even speak to her,” the statement read.

But Garrick contended that this was not true.

“I cannot get into specifics, but the mother has said a lot of things, and not all of them are consistent with what she initially started to give the police in the statement that she stopped,” the CCU head said.

The Inspectorate of the Constabulary, the Independent Commission of Investigations, and the Office of the Children’s Advocate are investigating the incident.

Correction: The headline of the Saturday Gleaner lead story ‘Cops trim Rasta kids’ should have been attributed to Sean McDonald. The artiste, while making the allegation, did not provide proof that the police themselves coordinated the act.