THREE men were shot dead by police this weekend.
That’s the simplest of facts about the shooting on Saturday. There are of course two sides to the rest of the story – but the shooting comes at a time of heightened tensions around the world about officer-involved killings.
In this column last week, we wrote about those tensions – and the question has been raised in more than one place why people care so much about officers who overstep the mark in the United States, but care so little about officers who do so here at home.
We do not know the full details yet of this latest incident. Police describe the incident as an ambush, saying that gunshots came from the car as an officer approached it. One relative of one of the men killed insisted that no shots came from the car. Someone is right, someone is wrong.
There are some curious inconsistencies in the story told by police, however.
Police Commissioner Paul Rolle said that the gunfire began as an officer approached the car and tried to speak to the driver through the tinted windows. He said that officer tried to make his escape and at that point “the other officers that were there then engaged the participants of the vehicle who continued shooting at the officers”.
He then said only one of the three officers fired bullets, not the other two. In what way then did the other two engage the occupants of the car.
Take a look at the photographs of the car published today. There are a significant number of bullet holes in the car. One gun was found in the vehicle, and police say one police officer fired. Did all of those bullet holes come from just two guns? None of the police was injured, thankfully. All three men in the vehicle were killed, two of which presumably were unarmed.
Last week, a Supreme Court justice warned that discharging weapons should be a last resort – referring to a case of an officer who shot a man in his back. That case took 13 years to reach that outcome.
Commissioner Rolle said this incident was nothing like that – saying this was an ambush, and saying that if people want to engage the police “they need to be prepared to meet their maker”.
He did not say whether the officers are being taken off duty while the investigation takes place – including the single officer who just killed three people who if he had no alternative then at the very least he needs counselling and not to be thrown back out on the streets. Commissioner Rolle also did not detail how any review of the incident might be conducted. Is that it?
As we said earlier, there are two sides to the story. Where police have opened fire, and others have questioned whether there were shots fired on police in the first place, a thorough investigation is not just warranted, but demanded.
This also serves as another example of why we should have body cameras on officers by now. If everything was as outlined by Commissioner Rolle, video evidence would quickly and simply resolve the matter.
We would also say that it shows the need for a standard protocol when incidents such as this happen – taking officers off the front line while an investigation takes place and publishing all the evidence so that people can have confidence that there was nothing else that could have been done, the only solution was to use deadly force.
This should not end here. There should be a full investigation. But this also shows the need for the reforms people have been calling for. Isn’t it about time they were delivered?
Hundreds missing after Dorian
Hundreds of people are still missing after Hurricane Dorian. Hundreds. And yet, in revealing that information, National Security Minister Marvin Dames chooses to target Dr Duane Sands for criticism.
We don’t recall him speaking up to counter then Police Commissioner Anthony Ferguson in January when he said 54 missing persons reports had been filed.
We don’t remember him correcting Assistant Commissioner Solomon Cash when he said that 33 missing persons reports had been filed.
Police still didn’t have an explanation yesterday for those apparent discrepancies when contacted yesterday by The Tribune.
Instead, Mr Dames criticised Dr Sands for asking why the lists of names had gone from thousands to hundreds, and said the lists also had people who weren’t missing but just needed housing, or people reporting crimes or who were displaced, or duplication. He said 813 people fell into those categories. That took them out of a list that had 1,092 names on it. That comes to 279 still missing.
He added that numbers are expected to fluctuate “as the reconciliation process continues”, although we are now many months past Dorian and hope has long been spent.
Hurricane Dorian was no one’s fault. Blame might be directed at preparations and response, but this monster storm that sat over Abaco and Grand Bahama was not the fault of the government.
So why not be completely transparent over establishing exactly how badly wounded our nation was by the storm?
People want to have answers. People want to grieve. People want to feel they are being taken seriously as they search for their missing relatives.
That is not too much to ask.