Kingston – National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has come under fire for encouraging law enforcement officials to adopt a zero tolerance approach in defending themselves against armed thugs who confront them.
The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), and the human rights lobby group, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), have strongly criticised the statement from Chang.
“Anytime a man take up a gun after police…when him fire him mustn’t miss,” the minister said on Thursday at a ceremony in Westmoreland, the western-most parish of Jamaica. “And when him get hurt, him get hurt. Once him pull a gun on a police officer, him must be prepared to deal with it.”
Chang said that he preferred if the criminal does not then need medical care since that will cost the state JM $10 million (U.S. $66 000) to save his life.
In a statement, INDECOM, which is charged to undertake investigations concerning actions by members of the security forces and other agents of the State, said a “shoot to kill” policy must not be the State’s response to crime.
It said all public officials must be guided by the Constitution of Jamaica in their statements and actions.
According to the INDECOM statement: “In any confrontation, the law gives primacy to the right to life, which is an inalienable constitutional right,” adding that access to medical treatment must be afforded to everyonens in keeping with the State’s obligation to safeguard life.
INDECOM noted that injury or surrender are also possible outcomes when law enforcement officials are engaged in solving and tackling crime.
“Law enforcement officials should not be provided with the assertion or insinuation that there is any provision to act with impunity,” INDECOM declared.
For its part, JFJ labelled Chang’s statement as an “unfortunate stance” that could be “interpreted as a tacit approval of extrajudicial killings”.
In its statement, the human rights ground indicated: “Such an order and instruction to the security forces as a means for cracking down on crime is not only irresponsible, but a clear violation of the right to life and security, as it could lead to further killings in the country while still not moving the country closer to addressing the high crime rate.”
The group urged all Jamaicans to reject the suggestion by the National Security Minister.
The JFJ statement added that while it stood with members of the security forces defending themselves, their actions must be in keeping with documented local and international Use of Force and Firearms policies and the Codes of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
It also cautioned that claims of evasion of arrest and suspicion of crime cannot justify the use of lethal force and that it “strongly condemns Minister Chang’s statements” and opposes any measure that will further exacerbate the culture of impunity among law enforcement officials.
“We, therefore, urge the Minister to make more responsible, nuanced and cautious statements going forward; statements that do not deviate from the documented standards,” the JFJ added.
There have been 1 089 murders in Jamaica this year, compared to 1 016 for the same period ending September 14 last year.