Exhaust non-lethal methods before shooting citizens, rights advocates urge cops

HUMAN rights advocates have appealed to members of the security forces to refrain from using deadly force too quickly when dealing with the public after a video surfaced on social media on Tuesday of a cop shooting a man who did not appear to possess a weapon at the time of the incident.

The location of the shooting was not officially confirmed by the police, however, sources claimed it occurred in St Elizabeth.

It is not clear what led to the shooting but the video, which has been making the rounds on the Internet, shows two cops pointing their guns in the direction of the man. The policeman who was closer to the victim appeared to be the one to open fire on the man, who fell to the ground after being hit.The cop who was further away from the victim was seen holstering his gun immediately after the man fell to the ground. The video then showed the policeman who is believed to have opened fire remove what appeared to be a baton from under one of his armpits and then he also holstered his firearm.

In the video there was no indication that the policemen tried to seize a weapon from the victim or that the cops tried to get the man to hospital in a timely manner after he was shot. Instead of checking on the victim, the policeman appeared to walk away after shooting the man.

The Jamaica Observer sought to get feedback from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) on whether the entity was probing the matter, however a response was not forthcoming.

Carla Gullotta, executive director of Stand Up for Jamaica, said that controversial videos such as the one in question, could be proof that some people “are shot without any reason to be shot”.

“I don’t know if he was mentally ill or homeless, but police training should encourage policemen and women to behave professionally,” she said, highlighting that non-lethal avenues should be explored and exhausted before the decision is made to shoot citizens.

Attorney-at-law and former Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry gave her views on the matter on Tuesday, saying that any member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force who shot the man should be suspended immediately, pending further investigations.

“It is very shocking what happened before and what occurred after. What is very clear is that a man was standing at a corner, behind a car. He was not resisting, he was not evading, and his hands had no weapon in them; he didn’t seem to be posing a threat to anybody. What I am not clear on is who shot the man. We see two policemen who are armed but it wasn’t clear to me if there was a third party who did the shooting.

“What I would say is that in the context of where there is a civilian standing, posing no threat to anyone, then that officer ought to be suspended immediately. The video was very, very short and it requires further investigation for the possibility of criminal charges to be laid against them. What needs to be done is the preservation of evidence and the identification of the individual who made the video recording so it can be used as evidence at a later stage and the collection of witness statements. What we heard in the video was outrage and a calling on the good Father,” Harrison Henry said, explaining that nothing in the video showed that lethal force was required during the incident.

The shooting occurred on the heels of last week’s statement from Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang, who reiterated that cops have the right to life in a gunfight.

Chang made the remarks at the Lasco/JCF Saluting Our Heroes awards ceremony at AC Hotel Kingston last Friday, and the statement received a resounding round of applause from the more than 200 policemen and women who were present at the event.

Chang appeared determined not to back down from his stance, which he shared in late 2022 and for which he received widespread backlash.

Seemingly unperturbed by public opinion, Chang said, “The police are professionals on the road doing a routine job, and you can only imagine the kind of mentality that would make a man ride up on a bike and look at a young Jamaican doing his duty and try to kill him. I say to the police here that: ‘Anyone who does that or attempt to do that, the only time they should have left on this side of the surface is the time it takes to do the post-mortem.’ “