THERE have already been about half a dozen police killings for the year. As authorities continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Allister Pierre, 31, we call for the full implementation of body cameras on police officers. Instead of quarrelling over which side should be believed after a fatal incident, we should be taking advantage of technology that can help us get to the truth as well as prevent incidents in the first place.
As is the case with almost every instance of police killing these days, the circumstances surrounding Pierre’s death on Sunday are disputed. Police responded to what was supposed to be a domestic dispute, but it quickly turned into a deadly altercation. Pierre’s wife Akesha Allicock has given an account of events that suggests various breaches of procedures and disproportionate use of force.
“He asked them to stop beating him and said he would stop resisting,” she said. “But they didn’t want to stop. He asked for a call and they said no call. After a while, they started to get fed up of him and they shot him.”
Police officials, however, gave a different account. They say Pierre attacked them and during this attack he was shot.
Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith wasted no time in taking the opportunity to air his general views on these types of incidents.
“I am not in any way saying I am here to defend any police officer based on wrongdoing,” Griffith said. “But let us not be judge and jury every single time a police officer is involved.”
The commissioner is correct. We should never come to conclusions rashly and based on generalisations. We should always interrogate, as much as possible, both sides of any story. Where two conflicting stories emerge, investigators should turn to the techniques and technology available that can help reveal the truth. Which is why Griffith would do well to expedite the full implementation of body cameras. Just as he is visibly involved in high-stakes operations of the Police Service, so too should he be interested in getting equipment that could redeem officers up and running.
Experts believe people act differently when interacting with officers because they know they are being recorded. Similarly, cameras discourage officers from negative behaviour. Last month’s handover of cameras to the Traffic and Highway Patrol Branch by US company Digital Ally is the type of initiative that should be expanded.
National Security Minister Stuart Young this month assured some officers are already wearing cameras. So what’s the hold-up? Why not all? According to Young, technology has to be upgraded.
Yet, what is needed is not the latest technology, just cameras that work. The State has dragged its feet on this matter long enough.