Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer
The Jamaican police have directed local human-rights groups and well-thinking citizens to focus their voices of influence on the ruthless criminals who are "slaughtering" their fellow citizens.
This statement from the Police High Command yesterday came in response to stinging criticisms, led by human-rights lobby Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), over the police killing of 18 persons in 13 days.
Underscoring what it described as the "ruthlessness" of criminals, the police pointed to the murder of Imani Green, an eight-year-old British national, on the weekend and last week's slaying of a St Catherine couple as they closed their business place.
"We are appealing to all Jamaicans, including the human rights lobbies, to turn their voices of influence towards these ruthless criminals, and appeal to them to stop slaughtering and maiming their fellow citizens and attacking the police when they stand in the lawful defence of the citizens," the High Command said in its statement.
"By doing so, we will all achieve our vision of making Jamaica a safer and gentler society," added the statement issued by Karl Angell, the Jamaica Constabulary Force's director of communications.
Three men shot
In the latest police killing on Saturday, three men were shot in what the police claim was a shoot-out with gunmen along Acadia Drive in St Andrew.
According to the police, two firearms and several rounds of ammunition were also seized.
But Simone Grant, the sister of Matthew Lee - one of the men killed - said her brother was not a "gunman" and cast doubt on the police account of the incident.
"It doesn't make sense ... . If there was a shoot-out, where are the signs? There was no blood in the vehicle, there was no bullet holes in the vehicle," Grant claimed.
"I saw the bloodstain on the pavement. They just killed them like they were animals," she added.
Grant said the family would seek to get justice for Lee.
The High Command said it noted with concern the increase in fatal shootings by the police during the first two weeks of this year when compared with the corresponding period last year, but argued this was due to more intelligence-driven operations.
The net result of these operations, the High Command asserted, was that the country has seen a 46 per cent decline in homicides since the start of this year when compared with the corresponding period last year.
The police say shootings have also dipped by 33 per cent while the number of arrests and the number of illegal firearms taken from criminals have increased.
"As members of the constabulary continue to confront those who are responsible for the kinds of gruesome crimes described, it must be anticipated that the superior training and discipline of the security forces will prevail,"
Despite this, the High Command said it regretted all instances of injury and loss of life that occur during confrontations with the police.
The Police High Command urged its members to continue performing their duties with "utmost professionalism and respect for the rights of all".
It also appealed to police personnel to exercise restraint, even in the face of danger.