The statement I made last Wednesday to the Police Federation has understandably resulted in general public rebuke.
On reflection my use of the term “collateral damage” was unfortunate and I unreservedly apologise to the Jamaican people.
It was never my intention to suggest or imply that unlawful acts by members of the Security Forces would in any way be condoned or receive any form of support by the Government.
I take the opportunity to restate and clarify the relevant policy issues of the Administration.
The Government stands firmly behind the Police in the lawful execution of their duty. That duty places them at great risk when they are confronted by vicious criminals and are the target of deadly fire. In defending themselves they are defending the nation and upholding the rule of law and the possibility of fatal injury cannot always be avoided. However, there are clearly established rules governing the use of force that are founded in law and are part of a policeman’s training to which he is required to adhere. Breaches of those rules are subject to investigation and the judicial process including criminal proceedings.
The Government is concerned at the number of controversial police killings. It is important if the Police are to earn the trust of the public that such instances be thoroughly and speedily investigated so that the justification for such use of force can be established and where no such justification is found the offending policeman must be held accountable under the law. The government’s commitment to this process is reflected in the legislation to establish the independent Commission of Investigations that is now before Parliament and the establishment of the Special Coroner that has already been approved.
It is where the investigating authorities and the DPP are satisfied that the policeman acted lawfully that the government will be obliged to provide legal defence against any action that may be brought against him.
The level of violent criminality to which the country is subjected and which the Police are required to deal with is a huge burden on the Government. The anti-crime Bills on which Parliament has deliberated exhaustively and are to be debated shortly are designed to strengthen the authority of the Police while providing safeguards against abuse. Every resource that can be made available and every strategy that can be deployed including critical improvements in the capability, professionalism and management of the Police Force are being directed at tackling the urgent problem of violent crime. Respect for human rights and the accountability of members of the Police Force for their action are central to those endeavours.
Senator The Hon. Dwight A. Nelson O.D., C.D., J.P.

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