KINGSTON, Jamaica – Human rights activists have raised an alarm over a spike in the number of civilian killings by the police even as the incidence of murder is showing a downward trend for this year, says a report from the Jamaica Gleaner.
Additionally, the activists have pointed to a handful of policemen who are repeatedly involved in similar controversial incidents.
As many as 80 people have been killed by the police this year and last month alone there were 23 controversial police shootings.
Since 1999, police activities brought to the Bureau of Special Investigation for investigation have increased by some 427 cases, moving from 89 in 1999 to over 516 last year. In total there have been over 2,400 incidents brought to the bureau for probe from within the Jamaica Constabulary Force with a complement of about 8,000.
Three-quarters of the incidents brought to the bureau for investigation are cases of police shootings that have left 1,066 people dead and 913 injured. But the BSI has only been able to clear up 55 per cent of these cases since 1999, resulting in charges being laid on about 123 officers in total. At least four of them have been convicted, while 43 have been acquitted of charges. Many more are still before the courts and at least 17 policemen cannot be found.
Human rights watchdogs Families Against State Terrorism and Jamaicans For Justice say the offences are too many and argue that only a minority of policemen are committing the offences, yet are not being brought to book.
“It is serious. We have spoken to the BSI to see what has been done to track offenders, track multiple offenders and really not much happens,” says Yvonne McCalla-Sobers, head of FAST.
Executive director of JFJ, Dr. Carolyn Gomes, agrees that not enough is being done to deal with repeat offenders.
‘Where are the sanctions? Where is the system (to punish) these policemen?” she asks. At present police who commit multiple offences are mainly transferred to another division or receive counselling after the BSI writes to the Police Officers’ Association, the Police Federation, the police commissioner, the chaplain and the constabulary administration requesting that the officer’s conduct be reviewed.