THE CIRCUMSTANCES surrounding Colin Roopchand’s death must be investigated.
This is necessary not only to unearth the facts and identify any failings which may have occurred but also to instruct the police in the appropriate protocols that should be adopted in relation to the mentally ill.
As an interim measure, the officers who turned up to the home of Pamela Stuart-Roopchand in La Romaine on Tuesday afternoon should be suspended from duty as an interim measure pending investigation.
Certainly, the account given by Stuart-Roopchand — Colin’s mother — raises serious questions.
According to reports, during Tuesday’s episode Colin bit his mother’s face. Therefore, any officer responding would have likely made natural assumptions about what kind of episode was unfolding.
Officers frequently are required to put their own lives at risk as they seek to protect members of the public who rely on them. However, that does not give the police the authority to respond in a carte blanche manner. There is still an onus on officers to act proportionately to the nature of the risk posed — however aggressive it appears.
There are conflicting reports as to whether Colin was armed with a cutlass. This, therefore, requires a probe to ascertain the facts.
It is clear that the officers possibly did not handle the aftermath of the death in a manner that is consistent with their duties. If the account given by Colin’s mother is true — in which she states she was misled by officers to believe all was well with her son — then this not only raises suspicion over their conduct as a whole but also does damage to the credibility of the Police Service as an institution which is meant to protect and serve all citizens.
This death is only the latest in a series of police shootings involving mentally vulnerable people. A month ago, autistic man Qhe Baisden was shot and wounded.
There is a clear need for stronger training of officers. While in the heat of the moment it may be difficult to assess the nature of the person being dealt with, it should not be difficult to respond with a degree of force that is appropriate, whether the person is mentally challenged or not. In this regard, we must agree with those who question why our officers so frequently shoot to kill.
This latest incident may have been avoidable had there been a better level of community policing. Such policing puts emphasis on relationships and knowledge of things on the ground which could greatly affect the nature of the overall response. Still, the police and the Police Complaints Authority must seek to ascertain the facts as swiftly as possible if we are to learn anything from what has happened. And we should.