June 12, 2021

Police vs. citizen confrontations – are we aware these are escalating?

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By Youri A Kemp From Caribbean News Now

Since sitting shotgun in Caribbean News Now for nearly a year now after years of hitching a ride in the news and commentary section, I have had a chance to take a look across the board and familiarise myself with issues around the Caribbean and Central American region.

I am happy to report that we are a lot more similar than we are different. Besides from the French vs. Spanish vs. English speaking sections of the region, we typically have the same socio-demographic, have the same post-colonial issues, the same racial challenges and to some extent, similar government administrative styles that have been converging towards similar best practices.

However, not all shared practices and habits are wholesome. Nothing in our region that we have direct control over, aside from large debts and deficits, is more of a problem than the recent and escalating rise of police vs. citizen confrontations that end up in fatalities, police brutality and citizens hindering and obstructing police work to their own detriment at times.

I say to their own detriment because, if the police have a suspect in mind to arrest or question in a case, why would one obstruct the police officer’s efforts?

Now, one can say that, because of past history with the police, some would say the police are not to be trusted and hence we need to protect our communities for ourselves and forget the “interventions” of the police force. However, while this may have some merit, one must give the police force the benefit of the doubt, particularly when they come in full force to question someone, do an investigation or apprehend someone who is deemed as a threat to society.

From The Bahamas, to Trinidad, to Jamaica, to even smaller states like Dominica and the Cayman Islandss, police to citizen confrontations are becoming more frequent and being caught on tape.

Not going down the road to name names and call incidents in either country but, if I were to keep a log across the region, I can show you examples of ten plus police confrontations with citizens for the month across the region; and within the month of October, at least ten police involved shooting fatalities.

Now, crime is a huge concern for our region as well. Let’s not get it confused here: We have a huge crime problem and eight of the top ten countries in the world according to United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) murder per capita reports.

Speaking ahead of the 28th Intercessional Meeting of CARICOM in February 2018, CARICOM secretary general, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, stated, “Crime continues to pose a threat to our community, it is not just a national issue for individual member states, it’s a regional one and hence it demands a regional solution.”

On this year’s agenda were issues related to internal security with member states and transnational and cross-border crimes and how they are to be mitigated were also discussed.

In fact, the Global Small Arms Survey (SAS), 2017 backs up Ambassador LaRocque’s claim and shows us that, out of the top 22 countries with the highest violent death rates for the year 2016, inclusive of deaths related to guns, knives, bombs, arson and poison and things of that nature; seven of the countries are in the Caribbean if you include Venezuela and the Dominican Republic; ten countries altogether if one is to say Central America and The Caribbean; and 12 out of the 22 countries are in Latin America, alone.

My contention is that while there are overwhelming circumstances acting upon how the police forces handle matters within their jurisdiction, and while anyone can succumb to the stresses and pressures of the job, most of our societies are very small, intimate and extremely local and the level of police to citizen confrontations should not be taking place in the manner it does and with such frequency.

Perhaps the Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) of 1971 may be able to shed some light.

The SPE social psychology experiment attempted to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers.

Of course, even in a supposedly controlled setting, where the experiment was clearly an experiment and not meant to be real, the experiment had to be cut short as the security officers started to take on their roles of “authority”, and asserted this upon the mock prisoners and hence the experiment got out of control.

Whatever the case may be, the matter of police to citizen confrontations, from my looking glass, is not only increasing but becoming dangerous a civil unrest, citizen retaliation upon the police force, riots, melees and other direct, disrespectful actions towards the police in what citizens call as a response to the overt police brutality and excessive force, is reaching a point where you may have all out wars against the police force as people decide to arm themselves from a perceived threat from an entity that is supposed to be the exact opposite.

IMAGE:Youri Aramin Kemp, BA, MSc., CFM, AFA, ChE, is an Associate Editor of Caribbean News Now and the CEO of KEMP GLOBAL, a management consultancy firm based in The Bahamas

For more on this story go to: https://www.caribbeannewsnow.com/2018/11/19/commentary-police-vs-citizen-confrontations-are-we-aware-these-are-escalating/

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