Mon | Dec 5, 2016

Officious policing is self-defeating

Published:Monday | August 25, 2014 | 12:00 AM

By Garth A. Rattray

In spite of the wide range of practical lessons - including human rights and psychology - taught at the National Police College of Jamaica, an indeterminate number of police personnel continue to act officiously when dealing with the citizenry.

They alienate the civilian population and, therefore, many people only volunteer information or cooperate with the constabulary if there is a strong feel for the need to do so, or if there is direct benefit to them, or if coerced. In order to suppress and solve crimes, the constabulary needs the willing cooperation of citizens, but many people feel oppressed by the police and only see them as adversaries.

Were it not for my usually pleasant interaction with the police and my numerous police friends and patients, I, too, might have joined the ranks of the citizens who view the constabulary negatively.

I dropped off a friend at the Norman Manley International Airport (NMIA) but needed to wait very briefly for her daughter to assist her with checking in. I could have circled, but I also needed to make a call to a sick patient so I drove off and stopped on the side of the Port Royal Road, away from any traffic, under a tree.

Ironically, it was Emancipation Day, but, about a minute into my call, a policewoman, accompanied by a policeman, drove up in a patrol car. I suspect that they were from the NMIA police post. She authoritatively announced that I cannot park there. I was surprised since there is no such signage.

'I'M TELLING YOU, NOW!'

I tried to explain that I parked there because there weren't any no-parking signs. I was concerned for others who may receive citations or have their cars towed. She said that there used to be a sign there, that I cannot park and that "I am telling you, now!" She chose to ignore another car parked a few metres in front of mine and the many parked on the highway side of the roundabout.

In order for there to be a no-parking zone, there must be at least two no-parking signs with arrows pointing towards each other, clearly demarking the forbidden area. A yellow line or a single sign does not suffice as a no-parking zone, and a verbal command without some other exigent reason is unacceptable.

Although she only singled me out, I wondered if her aim was to force motorists to pay for parking at the airport, even for very brief periods of time. I also wondered if she planned to spend the entire day and night telling motorists not to park in the area that was devoid of 'no-parking' signs.

Her officious display of power tempted me to prove her wrong in a court of law, but the projected time and income loss made me decide against it.

That policewoman could never know for certain if no-parking signs are still relevant at that location. Perhaps the authorities decided against replacing them. After all, what could be wrong with parking under a tree, away from traffic many metres from the roundabout on a quiet roadway? Without any signs and no evident danger, she was acting ultra vires.

Because some cops abuse their authority, I know quite a few decent, intelligent, law-abiding citizens who confess to a modicum of satisfaction whenever a cop is killed. All it takes is being mistreated or embarrassed by one single cop. Therefore, I am using this medium to publicise the incident. Hopefully, she will be admonished for her officious behaviour and for her atrocious public relations.

I implore all members of the constabulary to treat all citizens with respect, and, in so doing, establish a partnership in the common cause of fighting crime. Abusing your power, being rude and/or officious is self-defeating.

Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and garthrattray@gmail.com