AS ANY good detective knows, bias results in a failed investigation. Which is why the public must not rush to judgment in relation to the police officers involved in the fatal shooting at Santa Cruz on Friday. The police, too, must demonstrate similar restraint.
To resolve this deeply troubling state of affairs, in which police killings keep featuring the same he-said, she-said reports, the State must strengthen the independent systems available to probe these cases. It must make the use of body cameras – which can shed light on the facts – the norm.
In the context of the unwillingness of witnesses to come forward to give evidence when it comes to the brazen, daylight murders that occur any and everywhere, it is understandable why Police Commissioner Gary Griffith would be frustrated.
He last week lashed out at the inconsistency of residents having “bionic vision” when it comes to police shootings then being blind when a civilian perpetrates a crime. His volley echoed similar sentiments he expressed previously in relation to the mysterious circumstances in which a teenager was shot in the line of fire in Carenage weeks ago.
But even Griffith must acknowledge it would be more productive to encourage any eyewitnesses to come forward, no matter who is involved. Though the commissioner has a point, his efforts would be better directed at increasing the levels of trust in the police service. This requires tact, not blanket disdain.
This is not to say the malicious spreading of falsehoods is to be condoned. On the contrary, the same caution that applies to law enforcement officers should be directed at residents. As heartbreaking as any death is, all must rely on data and logic, not emotion.
Which points to the fact that investigations into police shootings need to be resolved by tools that do not depend on subjective accounts – whether supplied by residents or police officers. Body camera footage should be used and made legally admissible at trials to bring closure.
In relation to Friday, it is notable the police stated an attempt was made to use proportionate force. In the past, the question has always been asked why officers did not shoot to wound, instead of kill. Still, the fact that the occupants of the car ultimately died will force scrutiny to be placed on the degree of force used.
In the post for one year, self-assessment regardless, Griffith remains popular. But even he acknowledges the crippling problem of the trust deficit. In this regard, the lack of knowledge about the Special Operations Response Team, its standards, its dress, its protocols, and even its legal status, will soon have to be addressed.
“I aim for perfection,” Griffith said last week. “As much as I have done all that is possible, I intend to do much more.” He should.