Here is another case – this time of alleged harassment of a Jamaican citizen by the police – that Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has been pursuing for some time. Keep up the good work, JFJ. We must continue to be vigilant and to ask questions whenever and wherever necessary. Human rights is a very fragile thing – like democracy itself.
Here is JFJ’s press release dated September 18, 2018.
Police High Command Intervention Needed: André Smith Unable to Return Home Because of Police Harassment
Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) is alerting the public to an imminent risk to the life, safety, and well-being of a citizen, André Smith, due to persistent police abuse, harassment and death threats. JFJ is deeply concerned by the police’s disregard for Mr Smith’s legitimate complaints of harassment and urgent pleas for protection from rogue officers. JFJ calls on the Commissioner of Police to urgently investigate the matter and protect Mr Smith from further unlawful acts by rogue police.
It has become public knowledge that André Smith, a resident of Maiden Street in East Kingston, has been deliberately targeted, abused, continuously harassed and repeatedly detained by members of the Elletson Road police force since 2015. As a result of countless threats being made against his freedom, his safety and his life, for the last four years, Mr Smith has been forced to seek redress through filing a legal claim against the police officers, who have unlawfully abused him despite being duty-bound to uphold the nation’s laws.
The Police High Command must take action to control these rogue policemen, who have made it impossible for Mr Smith to lead a normal law-abiding life, free from fear that he will be abused or killed by police. These unlawful policemen do not represent the standards set by the Jamaica Constabulary Force and must be prevented from tarnishing the reputation and hard work being done by upstanding officers. Numerous attempts to constructively engage the police and proactively meet with senior officers have all been rejected. If Mr Smith ends up dead, it will very likely be the result of an unlawful execution by rogue officers.
Police abuse and harassment result in suicide attempts while in custody
In 2016, Mr Smith was arrested on a false murder accusation and illegally placed in lock-up by Officers McKoy and Davis, believed to be linked to the Elletson Road Police Station, who had previously visited his home, intimidated him and accused him of extortion. While in custody, Mr Smith was so traumatised by his ill-treatment at the hands of these policemen that he attempted to hang himself, leading to his hospitalisation for four days.
Throughout 2017 and 2018, rogue members of the police force, often led by Officer McKoy and supported by an Officer Whitter have broken into Mr Smith’s home without a warrant and have continued a trend of intimidation and harassment.
This came to a point on August 18, 2018, when Mr Smith was again falsely accused of murder by Officer McKoy and sent to the Port Royal Police Station. Upon being locked up, Mr Smith used his shirt to fashion a makeshift noose and attempted to commit suicide by hanging himself. Despite the alarm raised by other detainees, no police officer came to inspect Mr Smith, no one sought to remove him to a hospital or to place him on suicide watch.
It is disappointing to imagine that Head of the Kingston East Police Division, Superintendent Victor Hamilton, has so little value for the life of Jamaican citizens that he would casually dismiss not one, but two suicide attempts by Mr. Smith while in custody, caused by his repeated illegal detention, despite a well-documented history of police harassment and intimidation. Superintendent Hamilton continues to ignore these complaints despite the fact that his officers have not successfully charged Mr Smith with any crime, nor have they been able to present any evidence to justify his arrest and detention.
Senior Officers indifferent to abuse committed by police officers
In a newspaper article on Sunday, Superintendent Hamilton labels Mr Smith as a “violence producer” without providing any proof whatsoever, in hopes of denying Mr Smith’s humanity and forcing him into a sub-category of citizens that the Superintendent seemingly believes are entitled to fewer rights and blatant injustice. We have noted and seek to highlight that Superintendent Hamilton had to later admit that Smith was not wanted for any crimes.
We are immensely concerned that these uncontrollable members of the police force and some elements of the Police High Command believe they are justified to use intimidation tactics and infringe on Mr Smith’s rights because of unfounded allegations. Under no circumstance should any citizen be unduly or unlawfully denied of any of their rights and subjected to inhumane treatment from the police force.
The series of attacks on the life and liberty of Mr Smith and the wanton disregard for his rights and health have been the persistent theme in his engagement with the police. Despite numerous interventions by JFJ and INDECOM, and reports to the Inspectorate of the Constabulary, the abuse and harassment against Mr Smith have continued. Consequently, he has turned to the courts in a last attempt to secure justice and prevent further abuse.
Police officers making illegal arrests on trumped up charges
A Habeas corpus application was successfully made by Jamaicans for Justice on August 20, 2018, before Half Way Tree Parish Court. The Judge ordered that Mr Smith be immediately transferred from the Port Royal Police Lockup to the Horizon Adult Remand Centre for medical supervision. The Judge also ordered that he be placed in the medical ward on suicide watch and set a timeline for an Identification Parade to be conducted.
Ignoring the court order, the Port Royal police failed to transfer Mr Smith and instead of conducting an ID parade as scheduled, JFJ was informed that the witnesses had suddenly withdrawn the alleged “complaint,” and that Mr Smith was now free to go, and able to receive medical attention at his own expense.
Although Officer McKoy at the Elletson Road Police Station initially accused Mr Smith of being wanted for murder, investigations revealed that the station diary at Port Royal Police Station stated that he was being held on Suspicion of Robbery with aggravation, a charge which later proved to be false and was subsequently dropped.
Once again, Mr Smith was denied his freedom, denied medical aid and exposed to inhumane treatment on a false charge. Officers abused their power and trumped-up charges against Mr Smith in order to detain him.
Officers in charge must intervene
After the events in 2016, JFJ’s attempts to meet with the then Head of the Elletson Road Police Station to discuss Mr Smith’s detention were rebuffed.
In 2017, JFJ wrote letters to the Commissioner of Police emphasizing that unless real action was taken to prevent the illegal arrest and abuse of Mr Smith, he may again attempt suicide as a final attempt to free himself from continuous ill-treatment. No substantial action occurred.
Mr Smith has been unable to return home since his questionable arrest on August 18th and is in fear for his life because of the persistent rights violations by police thugs. Accordingly, we are again calling for the intervention of the Commissioner of Police and the Police High Command to protect Mr Smith from police officers who have continued to harass, abuse and wrongfully detain him.