Wed | Sep 28, 2022

Letter of the Day | Wrong message being sent by security minister

Published:Monday | September 19, 2022 | 12:07 AM


The unsavoury comments made by the security minister at the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Frome Police Station are not welcome.

These comments, simply put, were directions from the minister of security to the members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force to “shoot to kill when confronted by armed gunmen…”. Further, the minister reportedly made comment that in the event of a police officer killing a civilian, “I am not sending any ambulance out there, either… you go to hospital, it cost us $10 million to save him life. I am not into that”. To add salt to the wound, these comments were reportedly supported by Minister Robert Morgan.

The effect of these comments not only fan public emotions, but demonstrate a flagrant disregard for legal and ethical principles concerning constitutional rights, human rights, use-of-force policy, and self-defence. One can appreciate that this is a rights-conscious country which does not lend support to extrajudicial killings. This is demonstrated by the establishment of the Independent Commission of Investigations.

This is clearly the wrong message being sent to the public at large and to the relevant stakeholders, to include the hospitals and medical staff. However, reliance can be placed on the fact that medical professionals will uphold the proper ethical standards when administering treatment to citizens, regardless of their social, economic, or political standing. There is also no doubt that this high standard of professionalism is expected of members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force. We, the public, are well aware that our security forces are faced with an uphill battle every day to make Jamaica safer for us, as well as for themselves. Each day, police officers are literally putting their life at great risk. That is a noble sacrifice which merits much reward.

At times, difficult decisions must be made in a split second, and in some circumstances a killing can be justified. However, the years of service and the fruits of that sacrifice can easily go to naught with an excessively eager trigger finger. The minister must also have due regard that when a civilian, ‘gunman’ or not, is shot by a police officer in circumstances that are not justified in law, any assistance with legal fees becomes a strain on the public purse.

In terms of crime-fighting strategies, the minister’s words should not be considered as a serious proposal. At the very least, to describe his commentary as an ‘unfortunate stance’ would be a gross understatement. One can only surmise that the minister inadvertently thought out loud.

By way of a humble suggestion, as unsolicited as it may be, due consideration for a crime-fighting strategy that prioritises further implementation of public sensitisation campaigns to inspire trust in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and to develop better police-citizen relations, is of paramount importance. This is critical to fighting crime, as there have always been issues with persons coming forward as witnesses due to lack of trust in the police. Another suggestion is the implementation of body-worn cameras by the police. This could improve police accountability and can benefit the police officers who at times fall victim to being wrongly accused by members of the public.