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As cops seek way forward, Tivoli Gardens history holds them back

Published:Tuesday | June 15, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

Distrust, anger and pain were still fresh when residents of Tivoli Gardens got a chance on Sunday to discuss their grievances with a high-ranking cop.

The meeting was called to help the community discuss the way forward, but one after another the residents recounted stories from the police/military incursion on May 24 which led to the killing of one soldier and 73 civilians and untold damage to property.

With Superintendent Terrence Bent and a group of soldiers listening attentively, the residents spoke of how they were disrespected and "treated like animals" by some members of the security forces now entrenched in Tivoli.

"This tells me you are no way different from the persons you are chasing ... . You are criminals," one woman said to sustained applause.

'Hooligan' police

"They need to get some counselling too because it appears as if they grow up like hooligans," she continued.

"How you expect people to trust you ... ? You need to send them back to school, teach them how fi talk to people," the resident added.

Another resident warned that this kind of behaviour by members of the security forces could backfire and "you might end up with worse than you trying to get rid of".

"I am not tolerating any wrongdoer, but what I am saying is you are going to come and create more Duduses that you trying to get rid of ... ," she cautioned.

Seeking to reassure the residents, Bent said the force was going to hand-pick police officers to work in Tivoli Gardens in an attempt to re-socialise them to adequately deal with the community.

"A lot of the policemen have never been in here, and when they hear 'bout Tivoli Gardens, they believe that everybody in Tivoli Gardens hate them and it is not so," he said.

Bent said the rage directed at the security forces was expected, but pointed out that both sides have an opportunity for a fresh start.

"Do we continue the cycle of violence and hate and murder and mistrust? No ... we have to start afresh," the superintendent said.

Bent said he accepted that some aspects of the operation have gone badly, but said it was time to move forward in a "manner that respects both sides".