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Civil society groups demand Sav mayor withdraw 'shoot first' suggestion

Published:Tuesday | September 17, 2013 | 2:35 PM

Several civil society groups are calling for Savanna-la-Mar's Mayor Bertel Moore to withdraw a controversial comment urging members of the security forces to adopt a shoot first policy as a response to increasing crime.

The mayor’s utterances followed revelations by the National Security Minister Peter Bunting in Parliament last week that Westmoreland was the fourth bloodiest police division this summer.

Moore told a meeting of the Westmoreland Parish Council last week that the killings cannot continue in the parish and then issued a call for the police to shoot first and ask questions later as part of control measures.

However, the Jamaica Civil Society Coalition, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) and Hear the Children’s Cry have labelled the mayor’s suggestion as senseless and unbecoming of a leader.

Chairman of the civil society coalition, Dr. Paul Gardner says the comments attributed to the mayor would be a retrograde step given strides made to ensure the police abide the rule of law:

"Our leaders have to be very, very careful with their outbursts and in the face of crime and violence, one of the things that are required is level headedness [and] thoughtfulness of a response to the situation," said Gardner. "Certainly, the response of the mayor is unacceptable and he should do the right thing and withdraw the comment and apologise to the people. That kind of response, 'shoot and ask questions after', the mayor, does he understand the implications that that could have on the law and order in this country?"

JFJ’s executive director, Dr. Carolyn Gomes says the response from Moore is unfortunate.

She says the mayor needs to familiarise himself with the police protocol on the use of force and Jamaica’s Charter of Rights.

"It is a unfortunate response from a person who is supposed to be in a leadership role. He should inform himself as to the effective management of crime because, said Gomes. "We have a very strong role to play in that, it's going to involve pulling out the guns, it's going to involve pulling out the social intervention and ensuring that the communities that they serve are provided with what they need. To take the initiative to provide security for the community and the nation."

Convener for Hear the Children’s Cry, Betty-Ann Blaine says the mayor needs to explain his reasons for the statement.

She also says the desperation for solutions to the country’s crime problem must involve fixing family life.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Warren Clarke, the commanding officer for Area One which includes Westmoreland, has said the mayor’s suggestion would be a violation of police protocols.

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