A police execution due to a personal grievance is murder
Stabroek News
February 2, 2002

Dear Editor,

There have been a number of police killings. Some involve the use of firepower against genuine gunslingers in battle. Some are definable as "extra judicial killings", and others, we realise, are pure, simple murder. The difference? If a man wanted in connection with a series of crimes is himself gunned down in cold blood, the shooter will have executed him without referring to the system of justice. That's extra judicial. But if a policeman holds a grudge against an individual, and executes that person on some pretext that is a murder committed by an individual.

But is it a murder for which the police force itself must carry some blame? Some people feel that the police force is generally wonderful, and that "a few bad eggs" are spoiling the reputation of the force. Perhaps we can get a feel of the position.

I question the approach taken by both the police force and your newspaper. At first, your newspaper carried the story with the police version of events. I am sure, however that you did not miss the fact that the police report was based on the story coming from one single person the policeman at the scene. Nor did you miss the fact that every single eye witness (and there were many) consistently told a completely different story. You simply did not carry the report of the eye witnesses. This fact is worth querying, since, as you fully well know, the eye witness report is probably the most important proof, in a court case, of an incident having occurred.

The story grew, and soon your newspaper actually carried something on the eye witness reports though you specifically recounted the police report before making the note that the eye-witnesses had seen something different. I am sure you did not forget that those eye-witnesses were all quite near enough to see and hear everything very clearly, and that the police report was essentially the version given by the shooter himself. You simply made sure the police version got as much air as possible.

The matter progressed. The police were forced to proclaim their virtue, and they stated that they were diligently "investigating the matter". Here we reach a checkpoint. If this statement (that they are investigating) turns out to be untrue, then not only do we have a lie on our hands: whoever issued this latest statement will have been guilty of obstructing justice. So are they really investigating diligently, as they have said?

1. Did they speak to any of the eye witnesses before the date of the funeral?

2. Have they yet spoken to the eye witnesses?

3. Have they given any credence to the consistent reports given by the multitude of witnesses?

4. Did they consider the eye witness reports as they produced their police report?

5. Do they understand that the eye witness reports must be given more weight than the version offered by the man who did the shooting?

If the answer to any of the questions above is "no", then the police officer issuing the statement is an accomplice in the matter. I wonder just how many are involved in this?

I do believe, however, that there are decent policemen in the force. I yearn for evidence that the "overwhelming majority" of policemen are decent. Such evidence is sadly lacking.

Yours faithfully,

Joseph A. Blair

Editor's note:

The shooting of Mr King occurred on December 3rd. Our first report was carried on December 5 and was based on the police press release of December 4. We certainly would have wanted to carry eye-witness accounts of what transpired but the family declined to speak on the matter on December 3rd and were unwilling to say where Mr King was living. Coincidentally, in the edition referred to by Mr Blair where the first story on Mr King was carried, on the facing page we reported the case of Mr Jermaine Thomas who was shot five times by the police in Leopold Street. That news item is based entirely on eye-witness accounts and not a police press release. The point is that it is not always possible to get eye-witness accounts.

For balance, even where eye-witness accounts are carried, the police version of events is also restated. It is not our role in a news item to judge which recounting of what occurred is more factual or correct. Both sides have to be presented as far as possible.

We are also concerned, as Mr Blair is, that the police often say they are investigating these incidents and nothing or very little is heard thereafter about them.

Incidentally, any killing in cold blood where there is no threat to the police would be murder.