Wed | Apr 8, 2020

Letter of the Day | Police chief’s SOE logic appalling

Published:Wednesday | January 16, 2019 | 12:00 AM


Police Commissioner Antony Anderson's defence (Gleaner, 9/1/19) of the mass detentions in St James last year was a disappointment to many. They overlooked the fact that that kind of policing had to have had his approval all along (as CoP) and had it on the basis of the rationale he is now supplying. It is the rationale, now that it is exposed and actually defended, that really disappoints.

According to Anderson, most of those detained in the SOE "were deserving of it", even though, by his figures, 75 per cent of them were released in two days. They were detained on the basis at least of "information". Not charging persons, he argues, does not confirm their innocence. For killing to have come down by 70 per cent, the mass detentions must have "affected" the guilty.

But what if it was flooding the ground with security officers, not the detentions, that brought the killing down?




Anderson's line of argument adds insult to injury, the insult of a justification that does not justify, and the injury of depriving hundreds of innocent citizens of their rights. The rights assaulted included, in most instances, inhumane conditions and severe anxiety to family and friends and, for some, job losses. The insulting 'justification' is that you can be detained because you live in an area or community prone to violence and murder.

This being found in such a community emerges from Anderson's testimony before the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament (8/1/19) as the chief or only 'information' in the possession of the police and soldiers. Is just seeing you on a road in a violent area 'information'? Certainly it is insufficient as a 'reasonable suspicion' of committing or about to commit a punishable offence that the law requires for detention. The mass detention employed by some countries (e.g., Israel) to disorient a hostile community is intolerable as a policing method.

It was precisely this ignoring of the law that led the police in Tivoli Gardens in 2010 to detain more than 4,000 in that and neighbouring communities simply because they lived or were seen there. The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry roundly condemned it as illegal. Yet here is the same thing again in 2018. Can our constabulary not learn?

His refrain before the parliamentary committee was "bring the numbers down". That is not good enough from a commissioner of police. It must be "bring the numbers down sustainably", make the low numbers last. Much of sustainability is not in his portfolio, true - the social intervention, the economic resuscitation. But much of it is - the respect for citizen rights and policing that obeys the law.