Acting Police Commissioner McDonald Jacob says defiant protesters who ignored instructions by the police to leave the Queen’s Park Savannah on Sunday threw missiles at the officers.
It was one of a few incidents that led the Guard and Emergency officers to use tear gas to disperse the protest.
Speaking on CNC3’s The Morning Brew on Tuesday, Jacob defended his charges, saying they exercised discretion for more than two hours. Most of the crowd listened, and some protesters even sympathised with the officers.
“Some people responded and even encouraged some of their persons to leave because we are in a pandemic. After they dispersed, there was a core group who insisted that they were not leaving, and they even started, from my information, to jeer the police officers, and in some instances, some missile was being thrown,” Jacob said.
A Use of Force does not mean that police use physical force as a first response to disorder. It refers to the de-escalation of a situation using different methods. Jacob said using tear gas was not even the last line of defence.
He said Guard and Emergency (GEB) officers were well trained and practiced their routines regularly.
He said they also trained their critical thinking skills so that on Sunday, the commanding officer at the protest analysed the situation before resorting to increased force.
While the viral video footage contributed to the debate on whether the police abused their authority, Jacob said he would not use them to judge the officers as it does not paint the entire scenario.
He said he was not aware of what happened before and after the police intervention in the protest.
He said that the Cyber Crime Unit would gather all the information necessary.
“If we are of the opinion that the police acted outside of what is required in the Use of Force Policy, there is, in fact, disciplinary action that we take internally. That disciplinary action may involve further training for the officers. It might involve some sort of action, but we will look at it.”
Jacob was at his home, liaising with the divisional and operation commander, getting a ball by ball coverage of the incident.
He said the DCP of Operations was also part of it.
Jacob said the Summary Offences Act was clear on what people required to engage in a public meeting or march.
He said the Summary Offences Act stated that the person who wants to organise a meeting should notify the CoP.
The acting commissioner will decide whether or not to permit the meeting.
Similarly, if a person wants to hold a public march, they need a permit. He said the police would engage the organiser Umar Abdullah in discussions to avoid any recurrence of Sunday’s events.
Jacob said the police allowed several marches in the past, instructing the organisers of the perimeters and even support by leading them.
“When these things are organised, we need to deal with it in a particular way, and they are a procedure that needs to be followed. The procedure was not, in fact, followed. In the past, we were criticised for not taking relevant action, and you find that we went out of the way in using our discretion.”