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Take the ‘Brute’ out of force

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These are trying times for law and order worldwide.
Terrorism in its many forms, state-sponsored/supported and otherwise, is no longer a threat but a frightening reality of everyday life, wreaking havoc to life, limb and property mainly of the innocent and defenceless. Drugs and crime, in its multiple manifestations, continue to breed an upward spiral of violence which consumes most societies today. {{more}}
The modern means of communication and information technology not only give rise to technological and economic advances but are themselves the means of facilitating illegal activities and more dangerously via movies and song, glorifying them.
The effect of all these is to pose enormous and well-nigh insurmountable challenges to those charged with the responsibility of upholding law and order. Whether internationally or locally, the job of security forces is becoming more and more difficult to undertake. It is no easy task for instance to be a policeman in the Iraq of today, or a member of the security forces of the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, far more a peace-keeper or border patrolman in one of the many ‘hot-spots’ of today’s world.
The Caribbean is no exception to this trend. In both Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, there is not only the daily danger of death by violent acts but kidnapping of citizens, for ransom and sometimes leading to murder of the victims, have become commonplace. Jamaica, especially the volatile area of West Kingston, continues to put an ugly frown on the face of that beautiful isle. And then there is Haiti. Haiti? Law and order? Is there any common thread between these?
Locally, the breakdown in law and order and the rapid decline in standards of discipline and morality are serious headaches for the law-abiding as well as the law enforcers. Our youth, more than half of our total population, are the biggest culprits so upholding law and order is no easy task. Take ganja as an example. The debate over decriminalization of its use, a view towards which I am sympathetic, continues to rage and daily youths are railroaded before the courts on ganja-related offences, sometimes for possession of trivial quantities. In addition the bigger trade has led to a culture of violence to protect plantation, turf or cargo.
Whatever the merits or demerits of decriminalisation, the fact remains that as far as the law is concerned, ganja is an illegal substance. Yet it is widely, commonly smoked in public – on the streets, at public functions, everywhere one can see or smell the herb. In fact it has become as a sort of symbol of defiance to the law. How are police officers to deal with this?
There is also the raw, foul language, rapidly making all other English verbs and adjectives obsolete, lewd and immoral behaviour in public, annoying dangerous levels of loud noise and violence – chopping and shooting to rival any abattoir. Again, police officers are the ones on the front line, the ones to whom we complain when affected, the ones expected to face the explosive situations head on. Do we understand the gravity of their situation?
The solutions to all these problems do not lie solely, nor even mainly with the police, courts or prison. They are societal problems which must be addressed by all of us. But the police must play their part. They must confront the criminals, come between attacker and victim, often forced to resort to forceful methods sometimes to restore law and order. Such a role, however, is no excuse for the wanton use of brutal methods on the part of some police officers.
It has been more than 30 years now, that this matter of police brutality has been on the lips of the youth. “Stop Police Brutality” was one of the mobilizing slogans of the late sixties and early seventies. In 1974, I was among many youth who picketed the Police Barracks after a fisherman from Bequia, by the name of Randall Kydd, was alleged to have died at the hands of the police. None of us knew Kydd personally yet the issue was sufficiently powerful to draw such a response. Almost ten years later there were the protests when one Shallow met his death in similar circumstances on a Carnival Tuesday.
If after three decades we are still seeing weekly reports about recurring incidents of police brutality, something must surely be very wrong in our society. It is a matter which requires the intervention of the law-abiding, the preachers and the Christian among us, for no matter what the circumstances, we must never forget that every accused is a Human Being with equal human rights as the rest of us. There are times when the police will be forced to resort to force to apprehend suspects, but at no time must the flagrant, brutish disrespect for humanity be condoned or upheld. Even as we support the police to uphold law and order, it must be clear that they must act within the bounds of the law, must never lose their humanity and respect for the rights of others. It is incumbent on those in authority, starting with the Minister of National Security, to take action to ensure that the constant allegations are independently investigated (not by police investigating police), to read the Riot Act to all would-be brutes and to ensure that such acts of bestiality do not go unpunished.
Our police officers already have a difficult job to do. They have made important advances in relations with the public but these can be undermined by such unwarranted and vicious acts. The police officer is our defender and friend, not a Brute. We must make it clear that there is no room in the Police Service (I prefer ‘Service’ to Force) for Brutes, nor must there be room in These are trying times for law and order worldwide.
Terrorism in its many forms, state-sponsored/supported and otherwise, is no longer a threat but a frightening reality of everyday life, wreaking havoc to life, limb and property mainly of the innocent and defenceless. Drugs and crime, in its multiple manifestations, continue to breed an upward spiral of violence which consumes most societies today.
The modern means of communication and information technology not only give rise to technological and economic advances but are themselves the means of facilitating illegal activities and more dangerously via movies and song, glorifying them.
The effect of all these is to pose enormous and well-nigh insurmountable challenges to those charged with the responsibility of upholding law and order. Whether internationally or locally, the job of security forces is becoming more and more difficult to undertake. It is no easy task for instance to be a policeman in the Iraq of today, or a member of the security forces of the Palestinian Authority on the West Bank, far more a peace-keeper or border patrolman in one of the many ‘hot-spots’ of today’s world.
The Caribbean is no exception to this trend. In both Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, there is not only the daily danger of death by violent acts but kidnapping of citizens, for ransom and sometimes leading to murder of the victims, have become commonplace. Jamaica, especially the volatile area of West Kingston, continues to put an ugly frown on the face of that beautiful isle. And then there is Haiti. Haiti? Law and order? Is there any common thread between these?
Locally, the breakdown in law and order and the rapid decline in standards of discipline and morality are serious headaches for the law-abiding as well as the law enforcers. Our youth, more than half of our total population, are the biggest culprits so upholding law and order is no easy task. Take ganja as an example. The debate over decriminalization of its use, a view towards which I am sympathetic, continues to rage and daily youths are railroaded before the courts on ganja-related offences, sometimes for possession of trivial quantities. In addition the bigger trade has led to a culture of violence to protect plantation, turf or cargo.
Whatever the merits or demerits of decriminalisation, the fact remains that as far as the law is concerned, ganja is an illegal substance. Yet it is widely, commonly smoked in public – on the streets, at public functions, everywhere one can see or smell the herb. In fact it has become as a sort of symbol of defiance to the law. How are police officers to deal with this?
There is also the raw, foul language, rapidly making all other English verbs and adjectives obsolete, lewd and immoral behaviour in public, annoying dangerous levels of loud noise and violence – chopping and shooting to rival any abattoir. Again, police officers are the ones on the front line, the ones to whom we complain when affected, the ones expected to face the explosive situations head on. Do we understand the gravity of their situation?
The solutions to all these problems do not lie solely, nor even mainly with the police, courts or prison. They are societal problems which must be addressed by all of us. But the police must play their part. They must confront the criminals, come between attacker and victim, often forced to resort to forceful methods sometimes to restore law and order. Such a role, however, is no excuse for the wanton use of brutal methods on the part of some police officers.
It has been more than 30 years now, that this matter of police brutality has been on the lips of the youth. “Stop Police Brutality” was one of the mobilizing slogans of the late sixties and early seventies. In 1974, I was among many youth who picketed the Police Barracks after a fisherman from Bequia, by the name of Randall Kydd, was alleged to have died at the hands of the police. None of us knew Kydd personally yet the issue was sufficiently powerful to draw such a response. Almost ten years later there were the protests when one Shallow met his death in similar circumstances on a Carnival Tuesday.
If after three decades we are still seeing weekly reports about recurring incidents of police brutality, something must surely be very wrong in our society. It is a matter which requires the intervention of the law-abiding, the preachers and the Christian among us, for no matter what the circumstances, we must never forget that every accused is a Human Being with equal human rights as the rest of us. There are times when the police will be forced to resort to force to apprehend suspects, but at no time must the flagrant, brutish disrespect for humanity be condoned or upheld. Even as we support the police to uphold law and order, it must be clear that they must act within the bounds of the law, must never lose their humanity and respect for the rights of others. It is incumbent on those in authority, starting with the Minister of National Security, to take action to ensure that the constant allegations are independently investigated (not by police investigating police), to read the Riot Act to all would-be brutes and to ensure that such acts of bestiality do not go unpunished.
Our police officers already have a difficult job to do. They have made important advances in relations with the public but these can be undermined by such unwarranted and vicious acts. The police officer is our defender and friend, not a Brute. We must make it clear that there is no room in the Police Service (I prefer ‘Service’ to Force) for Brutes, nor must there be room in our society for brutish behaviour.

Getting it Wrong?

After all the near ten-year battle about the place of May Day, the original May 1 date observation was restored in 2001. No first Monday in May holiday. All well and good. Then up comes 2004 and May 1 is a Saturday. The observation will be on May 1 as usual, No problem. But were workers not supposed to get a day off for May Day? If there is no holiday on Monday, are we not robbing those workers who do not normally work on Saturdays of a day off? Teachers, public servants for instance. And shouldn’t daily-paid be entitled to a PAID day-off for May Day?
Have we got it wrong?

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