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JCF's claims on killings 'alarming'

Published:Tuesday | January 15, 2013 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

Local human-rights groups yesterday ridiculed claims by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that the increase in police killings since the start of the year is the result of more intelligence-driven operations.

The Police High Command, in its attempt to explain the 18 police killings in the first 12 days of the year, said in a statement on Sunday that these operations have resulted in "increased contact with criminal elements".

However the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights (IJCHR) has challenged this assertion, arguing that more intelligence-led operations should allow the police to capture and incarcerate people and place them before a court.

"That is the way any civilised society behaves," said IJCHR spokesperson Nancy Anderson.

"The technology that they use to catch these criminals results in bringing them before a court and having them found guilty on the basis of the evidence they have," she reasoned.

The Jamaica Civil Society Coalition (JCSC) went a step further, saying it was an "alarming proposition" that an intelligence-led approach to policing could have resulted in a "significant spike" in police killings.

"If that is the case, then it means that the number of Jamaicans killed by the police will be at record numbers by the end of the year and that cannot be acceptable to anybody," said Carol Narcisse, convenor of the JCSC.

The latest police killing occurred on Saturday when three men were fatally shot along Acadia Drive in St Andrew.

As is the case in the majority of police killings, the JCF reported that the three were killed after they engaged the police in a shoot-out.

2,600 killings since 2000

Data compiled by the JCF has revealed that more than 2,600 persons have been killed by the police since 2000.

According to the JCF data, 45 persons died violently between January 1 and 12 this year. Of this number, 17 were killed by the police and one by members of the Jamaica Defence Force.

Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), the human-rights lobby which has led the criticisms of the police, told The Gleaner yesterday that the circumstances surrounding the latest incidents of police killings "do not matter at this point".

"It matters that our police are killing people at the rate of more than two a day," said JFJ spokesperson Susan Goffe.

The Police Federation, which represents police personnel up to the rank of inspector, came to the defence of its members yesterday.

"To the best of our knowledge, the persons fatally shot by the police since the start of this year had engaged the police in shoot-outs, some after committing serious crimes including murders," said Chairman of the Federation Sergeant Raymond Wilson.

Wilson noted that the police were the first protectors of human rights and "it is not our desire for the loss of lives of any of our citizens".

However, Wilson made it clear that in instances where criminals refuse to surrender and instead engage the police in gun battles, "the superior training and discipline of the police will stand supreme".

He added: "Where criminal gunmen shoot at the police, our members will apply their superior training and respond to repel these deadly monsters who have no care for whose lives they take when they engage the police," he insisted.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com