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Video speaks a million words, says magistrate

Video speaks a million words, says magistrate

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The case against SEARCHLIGHT journalist Ari Shaw, in which he was charged with assaulting a police officer, was dismissed on Tuesday, October 11 at the Magistrate’s Court in Kingstown.

Shaw was charged that on J’Ouvert morning, July 4, 2016, he did assault Corporal Wendell Corridon, who was acting in the due execution of his duty, contrary to Section 196 of the Criminal Code Chapter 171 of the revised edition of the Laws of St Vincent and the Grenadines 2009.

When Shaw appeared in court on Tuesday, a video which was presented as part of Shaw’s defence, was admitted into evidence by magistrate Bertie Pompey. On seeing the video and hearing other pieces of evidence, the magistrate dismissed the case.{{more}}

The video of Shaw’s arrest, which was filmed by a civilian, went viral when it was posted on Facebook (www.Facebook.com/Searchlight1. As at October 13, 2016, the video had reached 456,500 people.

Following the dismissal of the case, Shaw’s lawyer, Grant Connell, wrote to Commissioner of Police (COP) Renold Hadaway.

In the letter, dated October 11, 2016 and headed, “Journalist Mr Ari Shaw and police brutality,” Connell said that in his opinion, police brutality, which he says was displayed in the video, must not be taken lightly.

“There exist an evil which now circulates and pulses at high frequency throughout the length and breadth of our country. It is unmistakably evident that this legion, for they are many, is also roaming through the body politic of the Royal St Vincent and the Grenadines Police Force. It is being pumped like vitriol through the veins, acid through the arteries, and hatred through the heart of the force, which you have the greatest challenge of directing or re-directing,” said Connell in the letter to the COP.

The lawyer, known for his outspoken nature, said that the way Shaw was treated during his arrest is evidence of unprofessionalism and heavy handedness in the police force.

“The evidence of one instance, of that phenomenon, being foisted by the police force, I use the word ‘force’ in its most literal sense upon a citizen; a journalist ironically, one who speaks for the public; was recorded on camera during the J’ouvert celebrations 2016. The evidence of this abuse, I’m sure you will agree, is disturbing,” said Connell.

He said that during the case, when magistrate Pompey saw the recording of Shaw’s arrest, he made the post-verdict comment that, “this video speaks a million words, it is wrong, that’s not how it is supposed to be done, the police were the aggressors, the defendant was going willingly, he was not retaliating.”

Connell said that the magistrate’s words speak volumes, given his history as a policeman who is no stranger to proper police procedure.

“I have looked at the said video recording nothing short of twenty times in an effort to digest what exactly could have been the mindset of the police officer when he acted in such a thuggish manner, seemingly without concern for the well being of Mr Shaw, as if the officer was carrying an animal to the market, albeit, the latter is not even deserving of such acts of savagery,” said Connell.

The lawyer stated in his letter, “In light of the aforementioned, I ask myself, is this Africa 500 years ago where a uniformed tribesman considered it part of his patriotic duty (to whom? To which law?) to brutalise his fellow black tribesman and brother because the uniformed one is of the mistaken opinion that he has the right to do so? After so many years of colonialization, have we not escaped the indoctrination where we were taught to self-destroy by brutalising each other? Is this why the colonial masters named a section of us the Police Force and not the Police Service?”

Connell said that we must “eviscerate” this way of thinking as we near our 37th year of Independence.

“Every action has a consequence. The actions of some of your officers, not what they did, but rather why and how they did it, were most unfortunate. With greatest respect, I do not envisage a knee jerking reaction from you on this matter.

“At the same time, I think the ranks of your institution and the nation would benefit from a redressing of some sort, even if it is for a historian or psychologist deconstructing the history and apparent mystery of the obvious falsehood of force as a matter of community policing,” said Connell.

The attorney said he is hoping that COP Hadaway can rebrand, from the Police Force to the Police Service and have members act accordingly in carrying out their duties.

“I imagine the work of both constable and commissioner is far easier if the community respects the entire hierarchy of the organisation as a whole. I humbly suggest that there is only one way to command respect, it must be earned,” stressed Connell.(LC)

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