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An armed policeman walks into a bar in a small coastal hamlet on New Year’s Day and two persons are shot dead. This most recent example of police violence, like previous beatings, killings, torture or indiscriminate use of riot control agents, is a violation of human rights.
Former President David Granger expressed the opinion, on his weekly programme − The Public Interest − that this country has endured every conceivable variation of police violence which could have been caused by the corruption of a few rogue policemen consorting with criminals, political influence and interference and weak command.
The evidence suggests that, within recent memory, victims have come disproportionately from one class of young males – Peter Headley (in May 2021); Quindon Bacchus (in June 2021); Orin Boston (in September 2022) and Cecil Sampat (in July 2020). The police also killed Shemroy Bouyea, Ivan Lewis and Ron Somerset in the Linden protest (in July 2012).
Numerous international reports have criticised police violence over the past twenty years, including the US State Department’s ‘Annual Report on Human Rights Practices’. The Amnesty International Report asserted that policemen killed 255 persons (during the Troubles, 1997-2012) − the bloodiest era of police violence in history.
Mr. Granger posited his opinion that the public should not permit police violence to become ‘normalised’ as an inevitable effect of law enforcement. Excessive violence could be excised with the implementation of the sort of ‘root-and-branch’ police reform such that proposed by the APNU+AFC coalition administration’s Security Sector Reform Plan.
The former President noted, also, that Police Standing Order No. 18 prescribes rules for the use of firearms and force which proscribe the use of lethal force by policemen except in specific circumstances – for example, an attack on an officer who is unable to defend himself by other means or if other means are ineffective – among other circumstances.
Events and evidence suggest that the PPPC administration is still ambivalent about police violence. “It is illusory to expect the culture of violence to be eradicated given the way the Force is functioning at present…there has to be change,” Mr. Granger concluded. He asked, exasperatedly, if the Police Force should be the nation’s watchmen, “who will watch the watchmen?”