Hit negligent cops in their pockets
By Devon Dick
The recent beating of Mario Deane while in police custody and his death from the injuries has raised the issue of how to handle citizens who are suspected of breaking the law and how to handle police who are guilty or suspected of misconduct. Based on the charge of having a spliff, Deane should not have been placed in a cell with mentally ill persons.
Police personnel should be fined when certain incidents occur while citizens are in their custody. For example, the policemen on duty could be fined half of their salary for three months if someone in their custody is harmed or killed. This fine should be imposed when there is not enough evidence for a criminal conviction or can be in addition to a criminal investigation and conviction.
There is a hotel on the north coast where the entire kitchen staff pays when a waiter breaks a plate, etc. This teaches collective responsibility and ensures that everybody is on the same page and working towards safety and protection. When you touch a person's pocket, it can lead to a change in behaviour. It is akin to an economic sanction which was effective against South Africa during its apartheid regime. Therefore, if all the persons on duty at the station when the beating took place were fined a portion of their salaries, we would be frightened to see how police misconduct declines.
The funds garnered from the fines could help to offset costs incurred by injured victims or relatives of those killed as a result of police brutality or negligence. If the victims need medical attention, the Government should underwrite the rest of the cost, and if the person is killed, the Government should pay for reasonable burial costs.
Additionally, there should be cameras in police stations to monitor conduct in and around the cell blocks. The technology is available and affordable and can be monitored from a central office at Police High Command and the head of the police station can monitor things from his office. These two measures could significantly reduce police brutality and negligence.
Furthermore, the police need better working conditions to care for persons who are remanded and are not even convicted. In a January 15, 2008 Gleaner column, I suggested that certain lock-ups should be closed after I visited the Red Hills lock-up.
When jails are in poor condition, it could influence how the police treat inmates. There are too many lock-ups that are narrow, with inadequate ventilation, poor visibility and insufficient sanitary conveniences.
Furthermore, most lock-ups allow visits weekly or, at best, twice a week. A lock-up should be treated like a hospital which allows for daily visits at particular times. A lock-up is a holding area for persons who have not been convicted and who should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty. It should be a place where the rights of persons are treasured based on the mission of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), which is:
"To serve, protect and reassure the people in Jamaica through the delivery of impartial and professional services aimed at maintenance of law and order, protection of life and property, prevention and detection of crime and the preservation of peace.
"We serve, we protect, we reassure with courtesy, integrity and proper respect for the rights of all." (www.jcf.gov.jm/about-us)
JCF members should heed Luke 12:47, "And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes."
Rev Devon Dick is pastor of the Boulevard Baptist Church in St Andrew. He is author of 'The Cross and the Machete', and 'Rebellion to Riot'. Send feedback firstname.lastname@example.org.