Little seems to attract public attention like crime news. Crime Watch, in 2014, had a 10 percent larger audience than News at 7pm.
Our perceived reality of crime has evolved where there are certain assumptions about crime and justice that are no longer questioned. We conclude with each new atrocity that ‘crime is at its worst’ without realising that we mainly see the gory side in our news feed, which is greatly enhanced by the rise of social media and the smart phone.
Our language has changed: we no longer speak of ‘policing’ but of ‘crime fighting’. For certain police, camouflage clothing is worn as if we live in a jungle.
Crime news reporting is a cumulative process with each new story building on the past ones and adding to our memory bank. This contributes to our fear of crime and our sense of vulnerability.
Our societal lack of trust heightens our awareness of the threat and we elect politicians to deal with it and instinctively support drastic measures. In this, we are like the US population, post 9/11, willing to give up our rights to attain greater security.
This environment enables our present Police Commissioner to grab for power—stepping past late former Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s efforts—to become our Editor in Chief.
There has always been a mutually beneficial relationship between the police and the media: the police gives them newsworthy images and the media gives them positive coverage. How else could we have instantly received pictures of the hapless Ms Krystiana Sankar of Westmoorings fame?
The police have been quoted more than any other source in the last six months in our media. The police is seen as being effective courtesy the media, since the insatiable appetite for crime news joins the two parties at the hip.
If one watches the local news, there are two main classes in this country: the rich and the criminal. The middle class is peripheral, and the poor is invisible.
Have we discerned that one major media house has decided to act as the public relations agency for the incumbent Police Commissioner?
Have we ever seen a journalist being welcomed into the police headquarters with video camera in tow to discuss a purported top-secret internal document on death threats to the Commissioner? Have we noted the timing of the information released about the two death threats?
In case you have not, the release of the confidential police reports always comes on the heels of a raid on gangs. The intended message? We are hurting the gangs and they want to fight back and kill—not the frontline guys but the Commissioner, our hero.
This week we had the release of a ‘top secret’ 2014 document supposedly penned by the same Commissioner, who was then the National Security Minister and who now helpfully confirms the veracity of the report. This report purports to warn of the link between criminal activity, government contracts and suspected gang leaders.
MP Roodal Moonilal chimes in with a corroboration that says that Gary Griffith had raised the matter and it was being addressed collaboratively. But this flies in the face of the reports at the time.
Firstly, Deputy Police Commissioner Richardson on 11 August, 2013 denied any knowledge of the development of a Duncan Street Police Post. The famous picture of Moonilal shaking the hand of Mr Kenneth Rodriguez—the reputed gang leader/construction boss—took place shortly after on tour of the facilities by Jearlean John, Moonilal, Griffith and Stephen Williams.
At the opening, on October 4, the then Prime Minister laughed off a direct inquiry about Rodriguez saying, “I do not know who you are referring to… I am just an invitee… What he is doing there is anybody’s guess.”
Williams, at an anti-bullying seminar within days of the event, said “the police has intelligence that Rodriguez was involved in gang activity.” To which the then AG Anand Ramlogan retorted, “If the Commissioner knows who the gang leaders are, they must go and put handcuffs on them…the awarding of a contract is not an entitlement…get the names…”
Ramlogan further mused, “if these people do not get work, what will they do and how will they live? Will it result in a further spike in crime?”
When asked specifically about William’s assertion, Griffith told reporters that he was not about to reveal ‘intelligence’. We are being played as unsuspecting idiots in the village square.
The anger now expressed by the Commissioner is over the loss of control of the narrative. The same frustration as with the independent videos that alerted us about the handling of The UWI incident.
Now it is the turn of the media house that refused to toe the line and published the story of the children of the purported gang leader.
Griffith should recall the then AG Ramlogan’s advice, “If you brand these individuals by publishing their names and pictures in the absence of cogent, clear and compelling evidence that is admissible on behalf of the prosecution in a court of law, then all of these persons will come to sue the AG and the State for defamation of character and discrimination and breach of constitutional right to equality of treatment.”
If a court prosecutor cannot make comments outside of the court that would heighten public condemnation of the accused, why can our Police Commissioner do so?
The media has to be independent in investigating since it avoids unthinking acceptance of the police official story and the stereotyping of entire communities.
We should not allow our Police Commissioner to be the new ‘Ian Alleyne’. Every creed and race must find an equal place. God bless our nation.