WE EXPRESS profound relief that no one was seriously wounded or killed in the shoot-out at Grand Bazaar on Wednesday night which saw two officers of the law — of all people — turn a popular recreational spot into a virtual war zone. Investigators retrieved not less than 28 spent shells from the scene following the episode in which the officers, a sergeant and corporal, blazed away, trading shot for shot with each other. Their conflict was reportedly over a personal relationship.
“I thought I was dreaming, this could not be happening right before my eyes,” an eyewitness told Newsday. “It was like a scene out of a western movie.”
The brazen nature of this unlawful and reckless exchange of gunfire by off-duty police officers, done without regard for the welfare of members of the public who had nothing to do with the men’s squabble, is a new low.
The Police Service Commission, the Police Complaints Authority and the Professional Standards Bureau of the Police Service must all probe this matter and hand down the strongest possible penalties in order to nip conduct like this in the bud. If these agencies cannot fulfil their mandate to effectively discipline and punish rogue officers, then the Parliament must move to enact reform as a matter of urgency.
This incident will likely reopen debate about whether off-duty police officers should be allowed to carry guns. There is clearly a need for officers to have these firearms at all times given the risks they face by virtue of their jobs. However, there has long been the view that this serves to make society more dangerous.
In truth the issue is wider than this. It is not limited to police officers, but law enforcement officers more generally.
Further, it is a question of whether the requisite recruitment bodies are capable of screening candidates for these posts.
The problem is not the gun, but the person holding it. Which is what is most distressing about this incident. What it reveals is the failure of two adult human beings to temper their baser motives. Whatever motivated them, whatever the personal grievance, whatever the deep pain or hurt that obviously precipitated the conflict, resorting to violence should never be countenanced as a solution.
For what it’s worth, this event is also a reminder of the need for greater levels of security at our public spaces. The irony is that the very individuals who would be expected to guarantee this were in this instance the source of the threat. Clearly, we need to think more seriously about the question: who will guard the guards.