Sun | Sep 23, 2018

Is Jamaica a police state?

Published:Saturday | August 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

On Monday, August 4, I was on my way to Ocho Rios driving a 1994 red BMW - licence number ALFONZ - obeying the speed limit and enjoying the scenery. I am beyond my three score and 10.

I was pulled over by the police in the vicinity of Moneague and I complied. They requested my documents and I greeted them warmly and handed over the documents, which they examined and found to be in order. They then informed me that they wished to search the car. I asked if they had a reason to do so and they said no, and that they did not need any reason.

I explained to them that my understanding of the law requires that they have a reason - either that I have committed an offence or am about to commit an offence. They reiterated that they did not need a reason and that they have the power under the Suppression of Crime Act to execute the search.

Knowing very well that the police have a licence to kill and that I have damsels in yon castle yet to rescue from the flaming dragon, and not knowing the contents of the Suppression of Crime Act, I yielded to the search. Nothing illegal was found.

I requested the name and number of the officers and they said, "Mi nah tell you mi name nor mi number" - and they walked away.

I drove to the Moneague Police Station to register a complaint and ran into the squaddie syndrome, where a female sergeant on duty gave me the same attitude.

I lapped my tail between my legs and continued my journey.

On Friday, August 15, driving the same vehicle, I drove to Spanish Town and when I arrived at the turn to Sligoville, I was pulled over again by the police, who requested my documents. I provide same and again all was in order.

However, the police had a big book similar to a station diary in which they entered my licence number, name and address. One officer read the information from the documents and the other wrote.

On a previous occasion (last year), I was stopped in front of Jamaica College at 10 a.m. where the police demanded my car to be searched as well as photographing me. They did not bother to ask me to smile.

I have subsequently reviewed the Suppression of Crime Act and nowhere therein does it state that the police have the right to search a vehicle without due cause or reason.

I have also researched the meaning of 'police state', which says: "A police state is a state in which the Government exercises rigid and repressive control over the social, economic and political life of the population. The inhabitants of a police state experience restrictions on their mobility and on their freedom to express or communicate political views which are subject to police monitoring or enforcement. It may include conduct on the part of the police exercising undue arrest, detention and harassment."

Are we living in a police state?