June 26, 2009
Violence is a dead end


In the midst of growing resentment among many persons in our society about what is being viewed as the excessive use of force by some branches of the police force, particularly the Rapid Response Unit (RRU), there were a few hopeful signs over the past two weeks. {{more}}

In a very interesting interview on radio earlier this week, Assistant Commissioner of Police Lenroy Brewster said that in the police force, they try to instill in their officers that they should make every effort to negotiate and resolve situations with citizens before resorting to the use of force. He said that his officers should remember that they are not there to create war with citizens. If what ACP Brewster says about the training given to his officers is true (and we have no reason to doubt this), why then are there still so many reports of excessive use of force?

At least one police officer seems to have taken his training to heart, however. Last week, Searchlight reported on an incident in which Police Inspector Nigel Butcher was assaulted by two young men. Butcher exhibited tremendous restraint, and his handling of the incident has been widely commended. We hope that that small minority in the police force which seems quick to resort to violence was paying attention. What is it that Inspector Butcher understands that some others don’t?

There was another hopeful sign last week when it was revealed that Director of Public Prosecutions Colin Williams has given instructions to the Commissioner of Police to charge certain police officers in a matter involving a teenager who fell into a coma after spending time in police custody.

We are hopeful because there is the perception among many in our society that no investigation or action is taken when allegations of excessive force are made against police officers. Although the men in question had not been charged up to press time, we have confidence that in the interest of fair play, they will be, so that this particular matter can be dealt with swiftly and transparently and that justice is the winner at the end of the process.

While we recognize the crucial role that our police officers play in keeping our country safe and the danger in which they place their lives every day, they have to be careful that violence does not become their default position, as that would be catastrophic for our tiny country.

President of the United States Barack Obama said it well in a speech he gave during his visit to Cairo, Egypt earlier this month: “Violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power …. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.”