By Rashad Rolle
Tribune Staff Reporter
OPPOSITION Leader Philip “Brave” Davis has said the killing of three people by police on Friday and the competing narratives about what led to it are “troubling”.
He said the time has come for police to stop investigating police-involved killings, saying the coroner ought to be engaged with her own staff to do the job.
The killing of three men in a house on Newgate Road last week has sparked intense discussion. While police said the men were shot because they were armed and opened fire on officers, residents in the home have painted a different picture of what happened. They have alleged the deceased men did not engage officers in gunfire.
Mr Davis told The Tribune: “I encountered one of the persons who was present when I appeared before a justice the other day. They were outside the judge’s chambers awaiting some application that was scheduled to be heard and they stopped me and told me some of the things that occurred. I don’t want to repeat it but it’s really troubling, especially since young children were involved.”
“I’m distressed and concerned about killing, period, and we ought to be concerned about such occurrences, particularly when it’s at the hands of supposedly trained officers who are supposed to apprehend and take people into custody using reasonable force short of taking lives. That’s not to say that if their lives are in danger they wouldn’t be justified in taking lives. But it’s always troubling when you have such different versions of what occurred and it’s left to which side one will believe. Do you believe the police or do you believe the other version? It really doesn’t auger well for what I call the weakening confidence that certain communities are having and reposing in police officers and the whole sort of enforcement polici es that are presently being engaged by police in supposedly detecting crime and finding the culprits of the crime.
“Then there is the issue of who will be investigating the matter? Police looking into a police matter? That cries out for an amendment or a crime expert coming in and examining this whole factor. That’s necessary to restore the confidence the public has to have in the police officers to protect them. The time has come for us. Even examining the physical evidence, if the police is doing it, investigating their colleagues, that should change.”
Bjorn Ferguson, an attorney who has represented a number of police officers in Coroner’s Court inquests, also said in a statement yesterday the Bahamas should move with the times and establish an independent body to oversee and investigate police-involved shootings.
“Jamaica rode along this very same road until they established an independent body to investigate police shootings,” he said. “The public simply lost confidence and trust with the police investigating the police. The body in Jamaica is called the Independent Commission on Investigations (INDECOM). In the United Kingdom, there is an Independent Investigation Office. There is also an independent body in Trinidad and Tobago as well.
“Let’s not play around until the citizens lose all trust and confidence in the police before we address this issue. This is a real issue. Trust in the police is fading. Let’s not wait until it is completely obliterated before something happens. The police as an institution is too critical to our democracy. We need the organisation to work. I’m certainly not anti-police. But right-thinking citizens believe in police accountability. The police are not above the law. The same law they enforce, they are bound by as well.”