By Ronnie Daniel
Greetings and best wishes for a productive year ahead.
I was given very good advice many years ago by one of my mentors, who said that “one should not express himself/herself while angry, less s/he runs the danger of adding more injury to an already inflamed situation”. But alas, I cannot contain myself and so I shall temporarily disregard that piece of sound advice and write you and the institution that you lead.
I am sure, given the present circumstance surrounding the calculated, untimely and savage death of Arianna Taylor-Israel, that you and my mentor will forgive me and understand the anguish trapped inside my bones.
The truth is, my heart is broken, and my spirit is disturbed and yours should be too, as the shooting death of Mrs. Taylor-Israel demonstrates a colossal failure on the part of our law enforcement agency that you have the privilege to lead. No amount of transfers, no amount of fancy-talk, no amount of suspensions can make up for this loss and the series of events leading up to it. For it is too glaring for what ought to have been a simple arrest based on clearly established procedures and protocols set out in our Criminal Procedure Code and the Domestic Violence Act of 2015.
My respect for you and the office of the Commissioner of Police is unquestioned but I consider this office to be one of the most critical offices in our land. Practically speaking, action or inaction by your office is a matter of life or death. In this instance, it proved to be a matter of death.
Mr. Commissioner, therefore, I ask you to provide genuine answers, not abstract explanations, to our citizens of the following questions I shall put to you:
- Is it not mandatory, as provided by law, that a police officer “respond[s] to every complaint or report alleging domestic violence whether or not the person making the complaint or report is the victim”? How then, action was not taken on this matter in “good time” to prevent what steered us right in the face?
- Is it not the prerogative of the Commissioner of Police, as provided by law, to have and maintain a domestic violence register? If so, why, as has been alleged, multiple reports had to be made when you, by law, ought to have known and consequently acted upon such matter? And as if the multiple reports were not enough, reports were made to the police the very week of this incident, according to media reports, yet swift action was still not taken?
- Given the protracted experience of abuse of Taylor-Israel, why was the alleged perpetrator not arrested under our Criminal Procedure Code, given that there was “reasonable cause to believe that a person was engaging in or attempting to engage in conduct which may amount to physical violence … that could result in serious physical injury or death”? The point is, a warrant was not needed for the police to act in the first instance.
- How is it possible for a person with [an alleged] history of violent behaviour and, more recently, a record of threats to kill, knowing that he possessed a firearm, continue to hold a licensed firearm? Why was it not revoked when there was cause to do so?
Your answers to these burning questions may provide temporary relief of my pain and hopefully, the palliative state of our nation would improve with time. But ultimately, my wish is for you and the state institution that you lead to step up, and take our women, girls and the entire citizenry seriously when reports of intimate partner violence and threats to kill etc. are made. I believe we — the people — can build a society that is more compassionate; a society that is premised on the principles of respect for human rights, the sanctity of human life and freedom and equality for all. Let’s act now so we can realise the society we deserve.