Saturday 23 February, 2019

A view from the outside: 'Eyewitness account' highlights need for CCTV

Screen grab of an alleged eyewitness speaking with TVJ News following the shooting of a bus driver by a policeman in Spalding, Clarendon on Tuesday.

Screen grab of an alleged eyewitness speaking with TVJ News following the shooting of a bus driver by a policeman in Spalding, Clarendon on Tuesday.

With Karyl Walker

While watching a news report on a shooting incident in Spalding, Clarendon involving two policemen and a minibus driver, I was left with mouth agape after hearing an alleged eyewitness report on the incident.

The man gave an account of the incident that ran contrary to the many videos of the incident which emerged on social media.

The incident unfolded in the central Jamaica town on the morning of Tuesday, February 5. The footage clearly shows a police sergeant in the process of impounding a Toyota Coaster minibus despite the protests of the bus crew and a rowdy crowd who had gathered.

The bus driver is seen gesticulating wildly as he protests the cop’s action and, in a flash, lunges at the cop and shoves him backward. The shove was so hard that the cop back pedaled about six paces, all the while trying to maintain his balance. But the driver was not finished, he kept advancing towards the cop who was in the process of unsheathing his firearm from a side holster.

The fact the policeman was reaching for his gun was not a deterrent to the bus driver, who was egged on by the frothing crowd, some of whom were also seen advancing in the cop’s direction. The cop drew his pistol just as the bus driver reached close enough to attempt to continue his assault. The cop fired one shot and a second, but the crazed driver still advanced and attempted to disarm the cop, who by now was trying desperately to save his life by fending off his attacker.

A colleague policeman came to his rescue and shot the bus driver, sending him to ground.

Then all hell reportedly broke loose.

An angry mob converged and a riot ensued. The cops were forced to barricade themselves inside a nearby supermarket as the mob called for their heads on a platter and proceeded to destroy the service vehicle they were assigned to use in protection of the same community.

After a three-hour standoff, calm was restored after reinforcements arrived.

But, astonishingly, the alleged eyewitness reported that the bus driver was collared by one cop and shot in the back by the other policeman. His account went contrary to anything that was shown on the videos that emerged and brings to the fore the importance of camera footage in unearthing the truth.

Thankfully, the driver did not die and was listed in stable condition. It will be interesting to hear his version of events when he gets his day in court.

It is always strange that, when a criminal carries out heinous acts, there is no one willing to stand in front of a television camera to give an emotional account, or give the police information on the crime. The opposite is true when the police are involved however. Everyone within a 100 mile radius would have seen that the cop was wrong.

Jamaicans must stop this double standard. It is no secret that the police have carried out many extra-judicial killings, and that is wrong. But when the police are carrying out their duty and have operated in a manner that subscribes to the letter of the law, they should be fully supported.

Thank goodness for smartphones and social media. If there was no video evidence available on that incident, it would be a sure bet that most Jamaicans would have sided with the rioters and vilified those cops. Then the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) would be on their case and maybe their careers would be hanging in the balance.

Legal minds have for decades decried the accuracy of eyewitness evidence and many convictions which should have been secured have been scuppered because of the uncertainty of an eyewitness account. However, the surveillance camera footage does not lie.

Months ago, the government launched the Jamaica Eye initiative and encouraged business owners to install surveillance cameras inside and outside their establishments in order to assist in reigning in the crime monster. However, while launching the initiative, the government has not made it easy for the business operators by removing the customs duties on those cameras.

Those duties, if they are not yet removed, must be removed post haste.

The eye of the camera is very effective in assisting in the crime fight and is solid proof of what transpired in an incident. It cannot be left up to individuals who may lie to suit their ulterior motives, to give evidence which can be torn apart by a savvy attorney and sometimes secure the acquittal of those who deserve to pay for the crimes they commit.

Lastly, to that man who apparently gave the wrong account about what transpired in Spalding, you are a disappointment. The nation and the world saw the videos and the bus driver was the aggressor. He attacked the police sergeant. We all saw it. You are a disappointment.    

That is my view from the outside.

Karyl Walker is a multi-award-winning journalist who has worked for Loop Jamaica, the Jamaica Observer, the RJR Communications Group and Nationwide Radio among other media entities. He now resides in South Florida.

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