Spaldings is no longer a sleepy little town

February 08, 2019

In this 2016 photo, policemen demonstrate the use of less lethal force after being trained in defensive tactics.
In this 2016 photo, policemen demonstrate the use of less lethal force after being trained in defensive tactics.

When I was a student of Knox College in Clarendon, Spaldings was a sleepy little town. Samfo Supermarket, Mr Wiltshire's pharmacy, a hardware store, and the bakery were the main centres of business, and a few drinking holes dotted the town's landscape.

There is a library and a post office, and a few other shops did decent business back in the day. There is also the Anthurium Restaurant, where I had my graduation ball at Knox Community College.

These days, the town that traverses the border of Manchester and Clarendon is not so sleepy anymore. It is teeming with life, business, and like the rest of Jamaica, rampant indiscipline.

On Tuesday this week, that indiscipline exploded into a riot after a police officer shot and injured a bus driver whose bus had been seized. There are a number of things that immediately jumped out at me when I first saw the videos, which have since gone viral.

Nobody likes when the police stop them, but they are still officers of the law and ought to be respected. Therefore, for the driver, obviously egged on by the mob, to attack the police officer was completely insane.

On what planet does it make sense to attack an armed police officer? I am sure the driver is now lying in a hospital bed thinking that that was not such a good idea.

Some reports and images suggest that the driver had a knife, so I can't blame the officer for choosing to defend himself when he feared that his life was under threat. Had he been equipped with a taser and trained to use that, things might have been different, but the Jamaican police officer only has a baton and a gun at his disposal.

The time has come to take a closer look at how we arm police officers.

The other thing that struck me was that the police did not immediately call for an ambulance for the man who was shot. The Percy Junor Hospital was less than two kilometres away. In this particular instance, the reaction by the mob would have prevented that from happening, but this is something the authorities need to address.

Ambulance service should be made available for persons wounded during confrontations with the police. Oftentimes, persons shot are bundled into the back of a police vehicle and then taken to hospital. That is not good enough.

In addition, the police have to take some responsibility for what happened in Spaldings this week as the convenient blind eye that they turn to the behaviour of drivers of public passenger vehicles will, over time, give those drivers licence to flout the law. Greater discipline is needed when it comes to enforcement. Greater discipline needs to be exercised all around.

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