Simple truths

Photo courtesy Pixabay
Photo courtesy Pixabay

THE DEATH of Ornella Greaves must be quickly and thoroughly investigated, as must those of the three people who died on Saturday and whose deaths precipitated Tuesday’s protests.

In relation to those events, where authorities see nefarious conspiracies involving criminal masterminds, underworld networks, dark espionage arts, bribes and plots to destabilise, most see a simpler possibility. People are angry and hurt.

When members of your community keep dying at the hands of the police, this is not hard to foresee.

So with all due respect to the authorities, we simply cannot be expected to take it as a given that their narrative is a sole and compete explanation for what occurred.

We grant the possibility of nefarious forces trying to destabilise the country and demonise the police.

Sadly, however, there is growing belief that the police, through officers who abuse their power, are contributing to that view of the service.

Show us evidence of these nefarious forces. Can we expect charges against them soon? If a plot was "foiled," then how come there were still widespread protest marches on Tuesday?

The fact is, the police face a credibility problem. This trust issue has implications for the entire chain of command and by extension the whole apparatus of law and order itself.

Imagine: investigators now have to determine who killed Greaves – and many people believe she too was killed by the police – mere days after the shootings in Morvant.

Many of the communities where police shootings have recently occurred suffer from stigma and neglect. Such communities have little faith that these matters will be investigated with any real seriousness or with any prospect of a definitive or swift outcome – if there is ever one at all. Our leaders need to ask why.

And the authorities need to start implementing measures to bring about change, not getting lost in narratives about a new “Mr Big.”

For example, police should not be giving anyone any opportunity to "demonise" them or accuse them of brutality or extra-judicial killings. If they instead use their training, deploy proportionate force and practise effective community policing, then perhaps the chances of police killings arising from mistaken identity or being trigger-happy will be substantially lower.

All the technological and intelligence-gathering might in the world cannot replace the basics. We need to focus once more on actually building relationships, not tearing them down. Protect and serve, not destroy and terrorise.

Frightened people described Tuesday’s events as "riots." They must have been alarming for anyone caught up in them. Yet there was remarkably little damage to property. Lighting fires in roads is a traditional form of protest in this country, and police should always be prepared for this. Marching and chanting: that’s what we do, not looting or shooting. And protesters have rights too.

Meanwhile, another simple truth: this cycle must end. If some of Tuesday’s actors were paid, the rest were certainly, as they said, paid in grief.

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