The international human rights organisation Amnesty International has given Jamaica high marks for its attempts to reduce police brutality, but has warned that more needs to be done.
“Jamaica has made very interesting and important progress in the last few years, in particular with the establishment of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).
“That is very interesting for our friends in Brazil and the United States, where there is no such oversight in their country,” Robin Guittard, Amnesty International campaigner for the Caribbean, told The Sunday Gleaner.
“That is something that we need to acknowledge, that Jamaica has made those steps. No other oversight body in those countries are as efficient as INDECOM, and I think that Jamaica can share its very positive experience with the region about its reforms and changes,” added Guittard, who was part of team in the island to mark International Day Against Police Brutality last Thursday.
“INDECOM is not a magic wand. It can’t change the whole system, but INDECOM has been a key game changer in investigating killings by the police,” added Guittard, a day after INDECOM reported a worrying increase in fatal shootings by the police in the last two years.
Last Tuesday, INDECOM reported that 168 of the 264 shooting incidents reported against the security forces last year involved persons who were fatally shot.
According to INDECOM, this represented an increase from 2016 when 111 of the 180 gun-related reports were for fatal shootings. In 2015, there were 169 shooting incidents, and of that number, 101 involved persons who were shot and killed by cops.
“I don’t know of another country … with a fatal shooting rate as with Jamaica. I don’t know of any other country in the world,” said Terrence Williams, head of INDECOM.
“I think the Jamaican people are too accepting of a view that if police find ‘bad man’ they can kill him. What it causes us to do is to think and assume that everyone killed by the police is a bad man and the police should act in that way. It is only until we realise that it is somebody close to us that has been killed that we have a reaction,” added Williams.
In the meantime, Ana-Paula Gomez de Oliveira, a resident of an impoverished section of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil, was among three females who participated in local activities to mark International Day Against Police Brutality.
She was brought to tears as she told The Sunday Gleaner how her son, Jonatha Oliveira, was shot and killed by police in Rio de Janeiro on his way home in 2014.
“What happened to my son destroyed the whole family. It has left a big void in the family. As a mother, I don’t know if these policemen are fathers, but I wouldn’t want them to suffer the pain that I am feeling. I don’t want any vengeance. I don’t want their deaths. The minimum I want, as a mother, is justice,” she said.