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Thursday, 14 July 2011

Jamaican police: most serious crime is by gays

Cartoon in JA newspaper following Bailey's bizarre claim
By Paul Canning

See update below

One of Jamaica's most senior police officers has said that "80-90%" of organised crime on that island is conducted by gay men.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Fitz Bailey, the Head of the Organized Crime Investigation Division (OCID), made the claim Monday 11 July at a press conference (video). After he received criticism, Bailey has defended the claim, saying it was based on "research".

The largest Jamaican LGBT organisation J-FLAG called the comments "an irresponsible and incendiary pronouncement". The Civil Society Forum of Jamaica also complained.

Gay Jamaica Watch commented:
"Sadly the reality is there are some in the LGBT community who may be involved in illegal activities and that may put an ugly face to the community in the eyes of the police and by extension the public but to simply label generally gays as criminals I am not so sure the other non gay underworld bosses are going to take kindly to this assertion."
The blog points out that the supposed criminality of gay people has been raised before in Jamaica, by MPs and public defenders amongst others.

Jamaican police have been heavily criticised for corruption and a long history of extra-judicial killings. The UK has sent senior police officers to advise the force and Bailey himself has just returned from training in the United States.

Jamaica's leading newspaper The Gleaner editorialised:
If Mr Bailey's observation was not so seriously dangerous, you might have just considered him funnily silly. The problem, though, is the potential effect of Mr Bailey's ludicrous statement.

A grave possibility is that Mr Bailey will have stoked homophobic rage, leading to assaults on presumed gay males on the assumption that they, even on the flimsiest of evidence, were responsible for this or that crime.

We believe that Mr Bailey is at his most perspicacious when he keeps his mouth shut.
Update: The Police Commissioner, Owen Ellington, says that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) withdraws Bailey's statement.

In a statement this morning, Ellington said that he had spoken to Bailey and that the JCF regretted any prejudice that might have arisen from the remarks.
"He shared information with me supporting his assertion and cited discussions he has had with representatives of J-FLAG (the Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays) about the problem. He fully understands the basis of concern for the safety and well-being of members of the gay community who may be targeted by misguided individuals simply because of the statement's under reference," said the commissioner.

He assured the public that the JCF has no policy of singling out individual social groups for special attention.

"Our focus is on enforcing the laws without fear, favour, prejudice or ill-will. The JCF stands willing to receive and deal dispassionately with feedback from our publics. Our mission remains to serve, protect and re-assure all," said Ellington. 

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