I must link to this story today. England’s Independent newspaper has published a story about the amount of “extra-judicial” killings by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The international media is finally taking notice. Last week, the Daily Mail wrote this story, and whether or not this is right, when the international gaze falls on a country, officials take the issue more seriously (a phenomenon not exclusive to Jamaica). This is, of course, because international reputation still matters, especially in countries dependent on tourism.
Jamaica has brought in an independent investigator from the U.K. to look into this matter. His name is Hamish Campbell and there has been surprisingly little news about him, and almost no explanation from the JCF or government ministries that I can find. (Campbell is not the first Englishman to join the JCF; Mark Shields and several others previously did so in various roles.)
The story I just linked to above was the first mention in the mainstream media of Campbell, according to a quick web search. Here are some others: INDECOM laments ‘extraordinary high’ number of police killings in October; and another, both from the Gleaner. And Observer stories: here, and here. The lack of media focus on Campbell surprises me, I must note, as it is such a significant appointment. Why is the media not paying more attention to Mr. Campbell’s appointment? Perhaps access has been restricted, or is there another reason?
This is remarkable. Think about the optics and the reality of an Englishman, a foreigner, coming to Jamaica to examine the activities of its security forces, who are allegedly killing beyond the constraints of their nation’s own binding laws. Think about that for a minute. An official from a nation’s former colonizer coming to investigate alleged extrajudicial activities. While this phenomenon does not technically raise issues of state sovereignty, it does call into question a nation’s own mastery over one of the very institutions that should bind it together.
Think also about how people of another nation would react if police were killing an average of one person per day. The police allegedly kill one person every day in Jamaica. What if they had rubber bullets or tear gas or tazers? Of course, these are no match for criminals who are equipped with guns, but I am just trying to explore this issue through different lenses. There must be a more fulsome conversation, but unfortunately, there does not seem to be more uproar amongst the general public. Or perhaps they are frightened? In any case, hopefully the international attention will push this issue to the forefront of the government’s agenda.