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Mass detentions show bias against black youth - Crawford

Published:Friday | March 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMEdmond Campbell/ Senior Staff Reporter
Damion Crawford

Opposition Senator Damion Crawford has raised concerns that large numbers of young black Jamaican males have been detained under the state of public emergency in St James, yet the security forces have only been able to press charges against a small percentage of those picked up.

Debating two resolutions on the state of public emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division, Crawford indicated that the Government was using a broad-brush approach to clamping down on criminal activities by declaring states of public emergency because it did not have a workable crime plan.

"I would prefer to see a strategy that identifies a criminal and labels him enemy of the state and then goes after that criminal and takes away the rights of that individual," Crawford declared.

He noted that in the current state of emergency in St James, some 1,200 persons had been detained.

Of that number, he said that 61 had been charged, representing about five per cent of those detained. "It means that 95 per cent of those detained, we found nothing to suggest that they are not good youth."


Targeting poor youths


He said that all the persons detained in St James were of a particular age group and a particular socio-economic standing.

"I ask the question, (is) there nobody from the middle class or upper class that is assumed to be participating in scamming, that is assumed to be participating in murder?

"There is a reason why the state of emergency (in the North St Catherine Police Division) was suggested for 14 days. There is a reason why those tools were not available to Government, willy-nilly," Crawford argued.

He contended that many young men detained in states of public emergency did not have immediate access to lawyers, having to depend on legal aid.

"If this was happening in Chicago, where police targeted black communities and took them in droves to detention of which 1,200 were detained and only 61 were charged, we would be saying 'Bun (Donald) Trump'. We would be saying 'Black Lives Matter'. We would be saying 'This is not right'."

He said that Chicago has a similar crime problem to the one that Jamaica is trying to solve.

While not voting against the extension of the state of public emergency, Crawford stated: "This, in my opinion, in my mind, in my heart, and in my conscience, is wrong. I am not here on my own volition, so I won't vote against it, but in my conscience, I won't vote for it."

Sixteen senators voted yes to extend the state of public emergency in the St Catherine North Police Division, none abstained, and five were absent. The motions required a two-thirds majority for passage.