Cross-examiNATION: Please, don’t enforce something you don’t know

By Alexander Shaw, Columnist

Jamaicans can be quite hospitable, yet aggressive.

Some historians may tell you that this aggression or militancy has its origin in the Transatlantic Slave Trade, where the more passive slaves would purportedly be sold in other parts of the Caribbean and the warlike ones would be brought to Jamaica.

The aggression among our people has lent itself to inhospitable customer service in the public domain than anywhere else.

Despite many training sessions and constant public outcry, in my view, we are nowhere near impeccable service delivery from the public sector. This is not to say that all public sector workers are inhospitable, as this would be a total departure from common sense.

However, the belief is that, in the absence of supervision by management (the stick over yuh back mentality), those who operate service lines and interact with the public, treat with especially ordinary Jamaicans in a manner less than respectable.

But, in this age of social media and smartphones, we all have to be mindful of the message we are sending.

A smartphone is the worst enemy of a disgruntled worker as, in swift seconds, it may ruin that person’s reputation.

It is often no longer a ‘he seh, she seh, you seh, or mi seh’ scenario. Video recordings will, more likely, bear proof of whatever transpired.

We saw just months ago when ‘Short Boss’ tried to – and in fact succeeded in assaulting a police officer in Spalding, Clarendon, after the officer ordered that his bus be towed away. Hours later, eye witnesses (or lie witnesses) were seen on local television news telling a narrative contrary to good sense.

A video assisted this officer’s veracity of the incident, and also made it clear to the Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM) that some Jamaicans are willing to fabricate a story to save the skin of lawless Jamaicans.

Fast track to this week when a smartphone was used to record an incident of apparent abuse of power by an ill-informed constable – too egotistical to employ the right approach in policing, causing his reputation to perhaps be blown away in the wind. Based on the video, the constable pepper-sprayed a citizen who failed to exit his vehicle to be arrested after he did not produce his driver’s licence forthwith.

The defiant citizen turned out to be a retired deputy Superintendent of police, who should have had advance knowledge to that of the constable.

The retired officer could have charted a different course, providing some guidance to the constable whilst nevertheless acceding to his request. However, one would, at the very least, expect a police officer enforcing the law to know what he/she is enforcing.

I must note that the applicable law here is not the new Road Traffic Act, which is yet to come into force.

Section 22 of the existing Road Traffic Act stipulates that a motorist who has been stopped and requested to produce his driver’s licence by a Police Constable, has a period of up to five (5) days to produce the said licence at the most convenient Police Station to that person; provided he has other means to identify himself and to verify his address to the satisfaction of the Constable.

The constable, as shown in the video, did not ask the motorist whether he has other means of identifying himself. He hastened to take actions!

Motorists, please bear in mind that, as per your driver’s licence, a note at the back states categorically that it must be carried when operating a motor vehicle. It is written there, I assume, to prevent situations like what happened this week.

Additionally, in accordance with Albert Dicey’s Rule of Law doctrine, ‘no one is above law’. A police officer’s duty is to maintain law and order. If he suspects that you are about to, or has breached the law, he has all right to enforce it (not to abuse his powers)!

If you disagree with the commands of an officer, my humble advice is to comply, then complain after.

I urge all Jamaicans not to limit their hospitality to vacation. Be kind even when you are on the job in the boiling sun, or in the office stacked with files, or before a long line of irate customers waiting to be served.

Remember now, the table does turn. Today you are the waiter, tomorrow you may be the diner.

Alexander L. Shaw is an educator and an attorney-at-law. The views he expressed are not necessarily those of The Beacon. Email your feedback to him at Legalservices.alexandershaw@gmail.com and to The Beacon at jamaicabeaconnews@gmail.com


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