Does Jamaica have “DEATH SQUADS”?

Yesterday’s front page of the Sunday Gleaner cried about ‘DEATH SQUADS.’ Apparently, according to two unnamed sources, (one retired police officer and one on active duty) senior police officers plan the murders of criminals and frame them as criminal activity. The story also included reaction from officials. Here is an excerpt:

Due to the sensitivity of their claims, the sources ā€“ one of whom spent four years in the JCF patrolling the streets of Clarendon before joining the Mobile Reserve; and the other now performs his police duties at a government agency after helping to maintain order in downtown Kingston for more than two years ā€“ asked that their identities not be revealed. Theirs are dark stories about condemned ‘criminals’, who they claim to know were killed at the order of senior police officers. These senior lawmen, they told The Sunday Gleaner, assign illegal guns – dubbed ‘sweeties’ in some circles – to the policemen, who place them on the dead men’s bodies in order to corroborate pre-written reports of shoot-outs with the lawmen.

“That (police executions) cannot be done by any likkle policeman at any likkle rank. That has to be ordered [at a higher level],” explained the ex-policeman, who told stories of how he saw alleged gangsters executed in a rural area prone to migrating gangsters from Spanish Town, St Catherine, and its environs.

These are scandalous allegations, but unfortunately, are not all that shocking. There were 219 extrajudicial killings in 2012 (a euphemism for police killings), and according to Amnesty International, these types of killings account for about 12 per cent of all murders in Jamaica on an annual basis.

And already this year, Jamaicans for Justice reports that police have killed 18 citizens. It is only January 20. (A task force called INDECOM was established in August of 2010 to investigate these killings and other complaints from the public.)

Needless to say, this is unacceptable and has attracted international attention from human rights groups, calling for an end to this practice. Congratulations to the Gleaner reporter who was able to get these sources on the record discussing this issue. It will hopefully shed some light and spur some action. However, I have reservations about publishing such serious allegations based on two unnamed sources. It is a risk, hopefully it was well-calculated and well-informed.

4 thoughts on “Does Jamaica have “DEATH SQUADS”?

  1. Pingback: INDECOM reports 47.3 per cent decline in “security-forces related” fatalities | Jamaican Journal

  2. Problem is, there is NO way that these two sources would allow their names to be given. That would be extremely dangerous for them. It’s sad that no one is particularly shocked by the headline – as if they will believe anything about the police. There is such HUGE distrust (and not only among inner-city dwellers). We will see how it turns out. I hear that INDECOM has been investigating such allegations for a while now, though. And that a policeman in Clarendon has been charged with murder.

    • Yes, it is the unfortunate reality that it would be too dangerous for the source to be named. Hopefully there is a reward in terms of shedding light on this problem that outweighs the risk of unnamed sources. Although I think here journalistic integrity is a luxury when put in contrast to the more dire reality that police misconduct needs to be exposed.

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