Thursday, January 18, 2018

Cops must account for conduct


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Police officers have a reputation for not following regulations when making raids on people's homes. They do not display warrants, do not provide their names and badge numbers when asked, and are sometimes suspected of robbing suspects. And, in the case of 32-year-old Stacy Ramdeen, the officers' methods could have facilitated the sudden death of the mother of five.

Last Thursday, the police executed a raid on Ms Ramdeen's home in Ibis Gardens, Caroni, in search of narcotics and ammunition. According to the police, while they were attempting to gain entry to the burglar-proofed house, they heard the toilet inside flushing—a sign that someone was getting rid of incriminating evidence. When they entered, they found Ms Ramdeen, who collapsed while being questioned. The police story was that she had ingested cocaine. But an initial autopsy found no traces of the drug in her system. Instead, it appears that Ramdeen suffered a seizure or fit. Nor did the raid yield anything more than one bullet.

On the face of it, then, it appears that the police officers concocted a plausible story to explain Ms Ramdeen's collapse and subsequent death. They also said they attempted to revive her. But a relative told the Express that the police took no action until Ms Ramdeen actually got into fits, and then unceremoniously threw her in the back of their vehicle and carried her to the hospital, where she was pronounced dead on arrival. The relative also queried, quite pertinently, why there was no female officer in the raiding party. After all, if the police were acting on intelligence, they should have known that there was a woman in the house who might have had to be searched.

Now the police version of events may be accurate in all respects. That is not the issue. The issue is that, because police officers have this tendency to flout procedure, they have acquired a reputation for brutality and corruption. This is not accidental. Many officers believe that such an image is necessary in order to deal with criminals (or, in the case of those officers who betray their oath, to make deals with criminals). Yet even good officers, who take seriously their duty to protect and serve, may rationalise that flouting procedure is necessary to catch criminals.

In this case, however, the police caught no one and stopped no crime. Instead, a young mother is dead. This incident should serve to remind officers that proper procedure protects not only the public, but the police as well. Unfortunately, police officers are well aware that there are few consequences for abusing their authority in this way, which is why such incidents continue to occur.