National Security Minister, Dr Horace Chang, believes the policeman in the viral video of the shooting incident in Spalding, Clarendon on Tuesday was ill-equipped to handle the situation.
Speaking on Wednesday at a Lion Club of Kingston luncheon at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, Chang defended the policeman’s action, saying that in his opinion in the circumstances, the lawman had to use the only tool he had to defend himself.
In the viral video, a policeman and a bus driver were seen in a standoff before the driver shoved the policeman in his chest, causing the cop to lose his balance.
The bus driver then charged towards the policeman, who drew his firearm and fired the weapon.
The driver’s attack seemingly persisted despite the gunfire from the cop, and further rounds were reportedly expended from the weapon, resulting in the driver being shot and injured.
According to Chang, modern policing involves equipping cops with more than guns and batons, inclusive of tools that would have been more appropriate to handle such situations.
He said that in some other countries, police personnel would have been individually equipped with items such as tasers, pepper spray or a small canister of teargas, a modern baton, a camera that he had control of, and a bulletproof vest, which the minister said seemed to have been all lacking in the viral video.
“That incident in Spalding, from a security point of view, we had a police officer in uniform, so he shouldn’t be attacked, and we cannot condone that,” declared Chang.
“But all he was armed with was a sidearm – regular police sidearm. So under attack, he had no choice but to use his firearm.
“Had he had any of the equipment of modern policing, he could have been easily trained that in the face of a hostile crowd of vendors and taxi drivers who can be quite aggressive to the police, to use one of the non-lethal weapons to intercept and control the crowd.”
Chang said for a properly equipped and trained police officer, the lethal power of the gun is for more life-threatening situations.
“The guns would be for a killer crowd. Those (the absent tools) are basic equipment and we have not equipped our police force effectively,” he stated.
Public agitation ahead of, during and after the shooting incident has been cited as having contributed significantly to the tensions that surrounded the episode. Of note is that after the shooting, a police service vehicle was damaged and police reinforcement had to be rushed to the scene to calm the situation and rescue the policeman who reportedly fired the shots. This after he retreated to the safety of a business premises in the town.
Chang said it was out of a recognition of the general shortage of proper facilities for the police, including rundown stations and outdated guardrooms, that the Government has analysed the situation and is geared at spending extensively to correct the problem over upcoming budget cycles.