Jamaica’s security minister says police should shoot to kill

Dr. Horace Chang

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) and the human rights lobby, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), have criticized a statement made by National Security Minister, Dr. Horace Chang that law enforcement officials should adopt a zero-tolerance approach in defending themselves from armed thugs who confront them.

 “Anytime a man take up a gun after police…when him fire him mustn’t miss. 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 last Thursday

He said also he would prefer if the criminal does not then need medical care since that will cost the state “$10 million” (One Jamaica dollar=US$0.008 cents) 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 should not be the State’s response to crime.

It said all public officials should be guided by the Constitution of Jamaica in their statements and actions.

“In any confrontation, the law gives primacy to the right to life, which is an inalienable constitutional right,” INDECOM said, adding that access to medical attention should be afforded to all persons 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 labeled Chang’s statement as an “unfortunate stance” that could be “interpreted as a tacit approval of extrajudicial killings.”

“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 human rights group said, urging all Jamaicans to reject the suggestion by the national security minister.

JFJ said while it stands 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 amongst law enforcement officials.