Spike in police-related killings in 2019

As po­lice con­front a sus­tained wave of vi­o­lent crime in the coun­try, some 23 peo­ple have been killed in of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings this year, a 64% in­crease over a sim­i­lar pe­ri­od in 2018.

The 23 fa­tal­i­ties oc­curred in 14 of­fi­cer-in­volved shoot­ings, ac­cord­ing to the Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­i­ty. Over a sim­i­lar pe­ri­od in 2018, some 14 peo­ple were killed in 11 shoot­ings in­volv­ing po­lice of­fi­cers.

Two in­ci­dents in the last sev­er­al days -in Care­nage and En­ter­prise- have trig­gered a de­bate about whether po­lice are be­ing too heavy-hand­ed in deal­ing with sus­pects. This al­le­ga­tion is of­ten times lev­elled by the same peo­ple who ask po­lice to help stamp out crime and crim­i­nals in their neigh­bour­hoods.

In one high-pro­file in­ci­dent that war­rant­ed a vis­it by Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley, three peo­ple were killed and four oth­ers, in­clud­ing a po­lice of­fi­cer, were wound­ed last Fri­day dur­ing a shootout be­tween West­ern Di­vi­sion of­fi­cers and res­i­dents of Big Yard, Care­nage. Res­i­dents said 14-year-old Nao­mi Nel­son was killed and the PM’s God­son was among those in­jured.

Some Care­nage res­i­dents point­ed fin­gers at a so-called rogue po­lice of­fi­cer whom they said was re­spon­si­ble for Fri­day’s in­ci­dent. They claimed that the po­lice were worse than crim­i­nals.

But their ac­cu­sa­tion drew a fierce re­sponse from Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Gary Grif­fith, who said res­i­dents should re­port rogue of­fi­cers—and al­so crim­i­nals in their com­mu­ni­ty.

“Sell them out!” Grif­fith said in a text ex­change with Guardian Me­dia.

“So they want to clean up their com­mu­ni­ty? Then sell out not just rogue po­lice of­fi­cers but al­so the gang punks who self-ap­point­ed them­selves as com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers.”

He added, “It is not po­lice of­fi­cers in Care­nage who work with the Venezue­lan un­der­world to as­sist them in smug­gling drugs. It is not the po­lice who have been killing oth­ers due to gang-war be­tween two ri­val groups. It was not the po­lice get­ting on like hooli­gans when the PM vis­it­ed Big Yard. I can go on and on.”

De­spite his de­fence of the of­fi­cers, Grif­fith said cit­i­zens could speak to him di­rect­ly if they do not trust po­lice of­fi­cers.

“It is time for all res­i­dents to start un­der­stand­ing that the po­lice is not the en­e­my,” he said.

“It is these so-called gangs that have tak­en vir­tu­al con­trol of cer­tain com­mu­ni­ties, that has been the cat­a­lyst for homi­cides.”

Grif­fith has been crit­i­cised for his pol­i­cy, known as “one-shot-one-kill,” which gives po­lice the green light to aim for the heads and chests of sus­pects in­volved in armed con­fronta­tions.

The Law As­so­ci­a­tion has said that the use of force must be ap­pro­pri­ate to the threat faced by of­fi­cers. Oth­ers have said Grif­fith’s pol­i­cy was more suit­able for mil­i­tary sit­u­a­tions than polic­ing. Grif­fith is a for­mer sol­dier.

But Po­lice Com­plaints Au­thor­i­ty di­rec­tor David West yes­ter­day said he did not think “one-shot-one-kill” was the cat­a­lyst for the rise in fa­tal po­lice shoot­ings.

“What is con­cern­ing is when there are mul­ti­ple vic­tims from a po­lice in­ci­dent,” West said.

“I at­tribute it to of­fi­cers go­ing in­to ar­eas where there are sev­er­al per­sons around and the nar­ra­tive that some­body pulls a weapon, the po­lice of­fi­cers fire back in self-de­fence and mul­ti­ple per­sons are shot.”

In one in­ci­dent last Oc­to­ber, five men in Laven­tille were fa­tal­ly shot by po­lice who said the sus­pects fired on of­fi­cers. Res­i­dents dis­put­ed the po­lice ac­count.

“It all has to do with the so­cial dy­nam­ic and how the peo­ple in those ar­eas are per­ceiv­ing the po­lice,” West said.

“It is not the friend­ly, warm wel­come. I would think po­lice should do a prop­er vet­ting first be­fore they go in­to those ar­eas.

“There is a lot of work to be done be­tween the po­lice and these ar­eas in hot spots.”

Au­top­sy: Care­nage teen hit in head


An au­top­sy done on Nao­mi Nel­son, one of the peo­ple killed in an al­leged shootout be­tween po­lice and a group of Care­nage res­i­dents last Fri­day, has re­vealed she was shot once in the back of the head.

Guardian Me­dia was told a bul­let struck Nel­son in the back of the head and ex­it­ed through the front.

Rel­a­tives are said to have been an­gered and dis­tressed by the re­sults and are again ap­peal­ing for jus­tice.

One rel­a­tive, who wished not to be named yes­ter­day, said, “One way or an­oth­er we will get jus­tice and the po­lice of­fi­cer re­spon­si­ble for this will face a spir­i­tu­al death.”

Nel­son, 14, who at­tend­ed the Mu­cu­rapo West Sec­ondary and was a mem­ber of the West­ern Di­vi­sion Po­lice Youth Club, was killed along with Keron Eve, 30 and Ka­reem Roberts, 27 on Fri­day night.

Two oth­ers, Chris­t­ian Eve, 31 and Ronal­do Syd­ney, 21, who is said to be the God­son of Prime Min­is­ter Dr Kei­th Row­ley, were al­so in­jured dur­ing the in­ci­dent. Syd­ney has a bul­let lodged in the ab­domen that is said to be mov­ing clos­er to the spine.

Rel­a­tives of Eve and Roberts yes­ter­day de­clined to com­ment fur­ther on the is­sue.

Reporter: Renuka Singh and Rhondor Dowlat



Spike in police-related killings in 2019

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