Killings by police in Jamaica are on the rise following a significant decline observed over the last three years, calling into question what could be behind the rebound in violence and whether it is likely to continue.
According to data from Jamaica’s Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), 31 people were killed by police officers in January and February 2017, a 55 percent increase from the same period last year. Security forces injured another 11 other people, reported Caribbean360.
“The new Commissioner of Police and the Constabulary will be overseeing a fatality rate that has not been seen since 2013, where the figures reached over 200,” said INDECOM Assistant Commissioner Hamish Campbell.
Campbell added that 15 of those killed by Jamaica’s Constabulary Force were not armed.
The rise in killings by police comes on the heels of a prolonged and significant decline. INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams noted that the number of killings committed by security forces between 2014 and 2016 was less than half the number registered between 2011 and 2013.
INDECOM was established in 2010 following the killing of 70 civilians in a police operation, and has previously been credited for the significant decrease in police fatal shootings.
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It’s probably too early to draw any definitive conclusions about the increased violence by police. Two months is a small sample size, and it may prove to be an outlier rather than a new trend. The steep reduction in killings between 2014 and 2016 is a much more significant data point that would suggest the police have made progress scaling back their use of lethal force.
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Even if killings fall back down to prior levels, however, excessive violence by Jamaica’s security officers remains a major source of concern. In its 2017 State of the World’s Human Rights Report, Amnesty International found that unlawful killings and extrajudicial executions continue to plague the country, while police forces still refuse to take responsibility for the human rights violations and deaths committed during a state of emergency declared in 2010.
And in a separate report published in November 2016, Amnesty said that, “Jamaican authorities and local police are promoting a culture of fear amongst women and their families in marginalized communities to cover up thousands of alleged unlawful police killings amid systematic injustice.”