Thursday, 23 May 2013
Ja Blog Day 2013: Police & Security Force Abuses
I had not planned on writing a post for Jamaica Blog Day. My blog is dedicated to the 8ths of the month. But, one and two times in the early years, I’d missed and posted on the 19th. So, I imagine, an extraordinary post on the 23rd won’t kill me.
Speaking of killing. That's what the first annual Jamaica Blog Day is doing – speaking of unlawful and unnecessary use of force and unlawful killings by members of the security forces in Jamaica. (By the way, would a change in name, to, say, Jamaica Police Service, help any? (Nuh badda cue the JPS jokes now.) Could that help to drive home the idea to many new enlistees what the membership should be about. Thoughts?)
I have never been abused by a member of the security forces in Jamaica. I don’t feel special about that. It just is what it is. I am, however, thankful. Folks can always talk about what and what they would or wouldn’t do if they ever found themselves in this or that situation. Monday morning quarterbacks and veranda commentators abound. All I know is that, based on the record of killings and instances of abuse committed by some members of the force, I am thankful not to have had that experience. I can hear somebody saying, “Knock on wood” or, “Don’t talk too soon.” Mi nah knock pon nuh wood.
In a conversation with sis @MizDurie, (her #JaBlogDay post here), I mentioned that the incessant focus and messaging that Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has maintained on this issue has likely reached the point of "noise". Y’know? As children we used to call it “static” when JBC used to sign off and so-so rice grain come on the screen? Kinda like that. It’s present but, to a large extent, the volume isn’t deafening anymore. And, to an extent, we have tuned out. The occurrences are no less abhorrent, but, for myriad reasons, our attention span has significantly declined. That’s why I think this thrust via social media – blogs - and the extended arm of Twitter – is a timely one. It’s not an aleatory twist that the movement has been birthed on Labour Day.
Living away from Jamaica – residing in the US and in Canada – has inevitably helped shaped my perspectives on a number of things. There was a particular notion that I struggled with for a while. And, it was frustrating to no end as I could not put what I was feeling into the appropriate words. Ever get that? One day, as I read a comment on an article, it helped. Before I get to that, though, let me share this piece first.
A few years ago, I was walking along Bay Street downtown Toronto one morning on my way to work. I heard a man at the top of his lungs saying words that I couldn’t quite then make out. As I got closer, I noticed he had a placard hung around his neck as he paced the walkway along City Hall. His words became clearer and clearer: “Write to your MPPs! The only way these things will change is if they legislate! Legislate! Legislate!” Now, Queen Park/Legislative Assembly is a few blocks up the road. But, I figured that he probably hadn’t secured permission to carry out his action on the grounds of QP. Can I tell you? When I heard the man’s cries, as Miss Lou sang, “water come a mi eye.” I felt a pang of longing for the advancement of Jamaica that I had never felt before. For, why on earth could Jamaica not be like this?! Why did many people have to, or feel that they have to, resort to crass-like behaviour, jumping up and down on TV, just to get their points across to MPs for whatever the problem – road, water, tax…? The answer came. Education. And, self-respect. If ours was an educated society, we would know that we should expect better from those in public office; demand more when they carry out mediocre work; hold them accountable and demand answers when they fail to carry out their obligations. We’re not expecting miracle workers in public office. We should expect them to put Jamaica – and not their party, nor themselves – first. And, because we’d have a thinking, and self-respecting, society, they wouldn't dare expect that they would be ushered back into office come election time.
But, our politicians, and those who somehow benefit from the illiteracy of “the voting masses” would rather not have that, you see. I am convinced of that. Why would they want to change the status quo when it would likely mean that they’d be ushered out of power quick o’clock? So, in lieu of long term and far-reaching help – to educate and empower communities – it’s a concrete wall here; a plate of food there… And the voting masses are somehow left with the impression that their interest is at heart; that the money they receive through remittances plus a superficial glamour-look and feel, fed by a steady (North) American diet of fashion and other pop culture, is the shizzle!
Enter the notion I had struggled to put into words: First World lifestyle on Third World mentality. Like putting a coat of paint on a rusty car. We have all the trappings and accouterments of ‘foreign’, but, when it comes down to the substance of what would make Jamaica "the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business"? As my grandmother used to say, “Cananapo!” (read: all now, not a word!) Because, explain to me, for example, these allegations by citizens, of how police officers chose to discharge their weapons. ("Dem put the guns over the zinc (fence) and start firing," she alleged.) How so many killings by members of security forces could go “jus soh”? In many developed countries, swift disciplinary action under the provisions of the governing Act is one thing; criminal charge is another.
And the deafening silence of those “in charge” (quotation marks intended), is yet another. In some countries? The minister would feel so ashamed that he or she would resign. But no. No one is willing to expend political capital to tackle this. And, neither will they pack their bags and go.
We have a role to play, too. It starts in the mind. If it is not at peace, sometimes, all hell will break loose. It is in the perception of, and respect for, self. It is what Scripture Willy, when I was in second form at Wolmer’s Girls, called “respect for life.” Also, it comes from an understanding that we deserve better from those we put to lead us; from an understanding that, if we do not do something about this haemorrhaging, we might not have anybody to turn to and to speak for us if our time should come.
And, if this continues, for many, it’s simply a matter of when.