The police, use of force and power
THE EDITOR, Sir:
While the police and the powers that be must be commended for limiting the use of deadly force on our citizens, I am concerned with their use of force and power. Two recent incidents come quickly to mind: the pepper spraying of the retired superintendent, and, more recently, the seizure and towing away of a senior citizen’s car for not having the registration sticker on a particular side of the vehicle.
Now, I am in support of the police carrying out the law to its fullest extent. I need no ‘bly’ or leniency from the police. However, it must be the law and not the police officer’s private interpretation of it. The police, everyone of them, are obligated to know the law that they use in their daily duties. Criminals and potential criminals should think twice because of the police presence, while law-abiding citizens should feel assured at their presence. The police, despite the present danger that they face in carrying out their duties, occupy a space of power and authority. Misinterpretation or disregard for the rule of law will only add to the distrust and the anti-police mentality that is widespread in our society: this will not limit crime.
If it is true that the police is to serve and protect, isn’t it also true that they have a responsibly to see to it that persons whose vehicles are seized are accounted for, especially senior citizens? To literally eject someone from their car and leave them standing on the road is unacceptable. At least offer to leave them at the nearest police station, and offer them the opportunity to make a call to their loved ones.
I think the Ministry of National Security and the Jamaica Informational Service need to run a long-term programme to sensitise citizens of their rights and responsibilities when travelling on our roads. Police officers also need to be well informed about the perceived infraction that they seek to prosecute; otherwise, as more citizens face the challenge of heavy-handedness from the police, some will seek redress in the courts and further alienate the police.