Wed | Nov 14, 2018

Letter of the Day | Don't make a farce out of state of emergency

Published:Monday | January 22, 2018 | 12:00 AM


I note the robust security forces' response to the high levels of murders committed in the parish of St James. This response is to be welcomed and encouraged. I note also that this response has come under the umbrella of a state of emergency that was simultaneously declared for the entire parish.

There has been what appears to be unanimous support for the actions taken from groups such as the political Opposition, business leaders, civic organisations and the general citizenry.

I look at things from a different perspective and without substantially more information which, obviously, I am no longer privy to, I cannot follow the herd down the path of the declaration of a state of emergency. As a general rule, I am not a fan of employing states of emergency for internal security operations, except in circumstances where they are manifestly justified.

A state of emergency (SOE) is the ultimate tool in the law enforcers' toolbox. When taken from its box, it must be used for the shortest time possible and must be a first step in a bigger overall plan.

It is not a tool to be trifled with because, if badly handled, it can be like a Spanish machete, i.e., it is as likely to cut the wielder as its intended victim.

The key questions in the current SOE in St James are these: What additional powers or operational measures do the security forces need for their welcome response that could not be satisfied under normal legislation, including ZOSO? If there is a measure that they need which is available only in an SOE, is that measure so critical to the success of the operation that they are willing to put at risk the negative responses from the declaration?


Interesting timing


It is so ironic that at a time when St James is at its safest security levels, the governments of Britain, Canada and the United States have advised their nationals to remain in their resorts. There must be other negative fallout from this declaration.

I am sure that every effort will be made to facilitate normal business, leisure and commercial activities.

But a state of emergency is supposed to signal that when declared, things are serious and it cannot be business as usual. The very threat of a declaration of a state of emergency ought to send shivers down the spine of those whose activities make its consideration necessary. We must resist the temptation to pull this tool even when urged to do so by popular opinion. We cannot run the risk of having our state of emergency turning into a farce.


Former Commissioner of Police