Cops aren't above the law
THE EDITOR, Sir: Picture this. It's a little after midnight and not a car light in sight. The traffic light is on red, so I stop to await the change to green. After about 20 seconds, a car pulls from behind and goes through on the red. As it turns out, it's a marked police vehicle with two uniformed policemen inside. No flashing light, no siren.
A few seconds later, I am stopped by the same vehicle. The corporal announces, "Sir, your back licence plate is obscure!" After this encounter in which I was advised that it was a chargeable offence and I should have it rectified forthwith, I wondered who would give the police a ticket (or threaten them with one) if and when they are found to be breaking the law.
The recent revelation that the police are operating contrary to the Road Traffic Act by illegally registering their vehicles is a case in point. Is this because of ignorance, or do the police consider themselves above the law? For the Police High Command to engage in this type of behaviour is indicative of the arrogant and high-handed manner for which the police are so often accused of handling matters they consider within their purview.
Even if the argument concerning financial crunch is true, does that not apply to the many Jamaicans who are ticketed daily for not having proper tyres on their vehicles or illegally operating their private vehicles as taxis?
Too often, uniformed police personnel are observed behaving in a manner that is bound to compromise the image of the force. They pay very little respect to stop lights; use their emergency lights in what are considered questionable circumstances such as getting to the head of a long line of traffic; or violating the speed limit. Some are even seen in bars having a drink while in uniform. Add to this the often abrasive, rude and uncouth manner in which many civilians are treated by some, and you have the makings of a very negative image of the force. An image very much of the police's own making.
When those charged with upholding the law are themselves guilty of violating it (and with apparent impunity), what message is being sent to law-abiding citizens, as well as rogue elements within the society?
Perhaps the police have forgotten that they are always under scrutiny. Always. Hence, their behaviour should at all times be conformable, if not exemplary.
The new commissioner of the force should ensure that his organisation is compliant with the laws of the land and that the men and women under his command are penalised when they break the law. Then and only then will the image of the force leave positive memories.