Police officers providing security at Jamaica’s criminal courts are demanding reinforcements following a recent incident where an officer was attacked and injured while processing prisoners.
Almost Killed over a Ganja Spliff
Last Wednesday (14th), a police officer at a criminal courthouse in downtown Kingston, the capital of Jamaica, was attacked by six prisoners when the officer attempted to confiscate a marijuana cigarette one of them was smoking.
The officer ordered the prisoner to hand over the spliff, and just as the prisoner was about to do so, another prisoner at the scene grabbed the spliff, according to local reports. Then six prisoners, who had all been present at the court to defend murder charges, had surrounded the officer and attempted to wrestle away the officer’s baton.
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The prisoners had also tried to verbally intimidate the officer by saying they were already charged with murder and that they were not afraid of the police, according to local news reports.
The scuffling officer had managed to overpower the prisoners by hitting one of them in the face with the baton, which caused the prisoner to bleed profusely. After seeing the injured prisoner, the other five had backed away from the officer.
The officer sustained bruises that required medical care, local sources reported. The injured prisoner was also taken to the hospital.
While the incident was going on, another police guard at the scene had stood at the cell door “helplessly,” according to local media reports. This second officer had been afraid to open the cell door and assist his colleague because he thought the prisoners would escape.
He later remarked that he didn’t even have a can of pepper spray with him to use.
One Incident Highlights Many Concerns for Jamaican Court Officers
The incident has shed light upon the plight of Jamaican court officers who are often overwhelmed due to lack of personnel and inadequate means to defend themselves against prisoners who become violent in custody.
Officers had on several occasions complained of a lack of pepper spray. The few cans available are given to officers who patrol the streets. Such prioritizing is startling when court officers have raised serious concerns regarding prisoners who keep sharp objects on their person. Soon before the incident took place, a prisoner was apprehended with a razor blade, a policewoman who works at the courthouse told local media.
Unruly prisoners are not an uncommon sight in Jamaican prisons, where many in lockup can be seen smoking marijuana cigarettes.
Police officers have highlighted the dismal state of security at the place where the incident took place—the Supreme Court complex of Jamaica—for the past five years.
The criminal jail section at the complex houses more than 30 prisoners on a daily basis, but has only three officers guarding the cell. Although it’s a known fact that five police officers are required in a courtroom, only two are currently available for each.
Courthouse police officers have long complained of lack of personnel, but their complaints have so far fallen on deaf ears.