Dissing can be deadly
By Gary Spaulding, Guest Columnist
Less than a week after Mario Deane allegedly dissed a policewoman and was banished to a cell at the Barnett Street Police Station, where he was turned into punching bag, a group of policemen in Kingston didn't seemed to have learnt anything from the high-profile tragedy.
In recent years, the terrifying reality has been irrevocably emerging in Jamaica and the United States, it seems, that dissing a person is perhaps the worst form of criminal offence that has never been on the law books.
'Dissing', a slang derived from the word disrespect, can be deadly.
Deane, 31, was reportedly detained because of a 'trans-gression' that led to a brutal death.
The significance of disbelieving Jamaicans screaming, hollering, ranting and raving at Deane's death was lost on a small group of policemen carrying out spot checks on a Corporate Area road last week. During the exercise, a motorist was stopped and was about to be ticketed when he dared to talk back to the cop.
In Jamaica, civilians daring to raise questions or objections to a policeman or policewoman when he/she is accosted is deemed a big diss and may land a hapless individual in jail.
This occasion was no exception, as the policemen felt undone by the dissing motorist, with the net effect that an altercation developed, which attracted a small crowd.
It's a good thing that there are two categories of police personnel in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). One comprises cerebral law-enforcement personnel; the other, some fearfully moronic individuals. Both categories, it appears, contain members of both genders and, perhaps, all ranks. In short, a constable may be smart and a superintendent may not be.
Fortunately, for both the dissed cop and the dissing motorist, a seemingly smart cop was passing by and decided to intervene. When the senior cop enquired as to the cause of the dispute, he was told by the dissed policeman that the motorist was being disrespectful.
When asked where on the law books is there an offence for disrespecting a police officer, the dissed cop reportedly became dumb. The sensible law-enforcement officer advised the younger cop to serve the required ticket and let the motorist go.
While the senior policeman deserves kudos for being level-headed, Jamaicans, I am sure, shudder to think of the likely consequences if he was not fortuitously driving by the altercation.
Tragically, dissing is an 'offence' which some policemen and women take seriously.
And while it appears to be an even more serious offence to some armed Jamaicans who wear the label of 'dons' and 'gangsters', even so-called law-abiding members of society frown up on being dissed.
There are indications that one may get away with stealing, lying cheating or any other offence against one's fellowman, but certainly not to diss, as many seem to believe that it is a capital offence that attracts the death penalty.
While there is no sign that the severe backlash of dissing is going anywhere, more Jamaicans are applying to the Firearm Licensing Authority for gun licences. The agency has processed 3,800 applications for firearm licences since the start of the year, an average of 550 per month.
In a culture where few things trigger a conflict faster than a diss, let's hope more Jamaicans don't go further than shooting off their mouths.
Gary Spaulding is a parliamentary and political-affairs journalist. Email feedback to email@example.com.