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JAMAICA | Should a citizen obey an unlawful order from a police officer?

Retired Deputy Superintendent Altemorth ‘Parro’ Campbell, who was pepper-sprayed in the eyes, after he disobeyed a constable's directive to exit his vehicle to be arrested for a perceived violation that was not an arrestable offence. Retired Deputy Superintendent Altemorth ‘Parro’ Campbell, who was pepper-sprayed in the eyes, after he disobeyed a constable's directive to exit his vehicle to be arrested for a perceived violation that was not an arrestable offence.
KINGSTON, June 7, 2019- The question of whether a citizen is required to obey an unlawful order from the police has become a matter for concern, as the police high command is advising motorists to adhere to the instructions of police officers when stopped for traffic checks or violations.

This follows the pepper-spraying of a retired senior policeman by a constable during a traffic stop on Molynes Road in St. Andrew.

The retired Deputy Superintendent Altemorth ‘Parro’ Campbell, was pepper-sprayed in the eyes, after he disobeyed the constable's directive to exit his vehicle to be arrested for a perceived violation that was not an arrestable offence.

According to the retired DSP from his knowledge of the law and police procedures, the order from the police officer was unlawful.

Speaking on RJR's call-in programme, Hotline, Friday morning, Mr. Campbell gave his version of the incident which he said occurred on Wednesday afternoon.

He said while travelling on Molynes Road, he overtook a stationary vehicle and another vehicle, whose driver was turning left.

Shortly after, Mr. Campbell said police officers in a marked vehicle drove up and requested that he pull over. 

He said when an officer approached his vehicle, he rolled down his window and asked what he had done. 

"He said to me, I overtook several vehicles down the road. I said no officer, not several. If you were behind me, you would have seen that it was a stationary vehicle." 

He explained to the officer that the vehicle's driver appeared to be a woman who was on her phone. 

As for the other vehicle he overtook: "The other vehicle was turning left. Him say me shoulda wait 'til the vehicle turn," the retired cop recalled.  

Mr. Campbell said after explaining to the constable what had occurred, his driver's licence was requested. 

When he told the cop he did not have his license in his possession, the officer threatened to arrest him, noting that the fact that he was without his driver’s licence was not an arrestable offence as the law required that he be properly identified.

Mr. Campbell  said he was pepper-sprayed after he made an attempt to exit the vehicle and then changed his mind after assessing the demeanor of the officer who by then had determined to pepper spray him which he intimated was far from professional behaviour.

The police constable sprayed from the can a second time, but missed as Mr. Campbell was in the process of winding up his window.

A senior police officer eventually arrived on the scene and diffused the situation.

Retired Senior Superintendent of Police Newton Amos, speaking on the same programme, said given the nature of the incident, the police high command should state its position because "unless the rules and the regulations have changed...then one could have seen clearly that the police officer would have committed several breaches of the Force's Standing Orders, Rules and Regulations." 

But what of the question, should a citizen disobey an unlawful order from a police officer? Public Defender Mrs Arlene Harrison Henry said while it is not legal for a police officer to give an unlawful order, given the realities of today’s Jamaica, she would not recommend disobeying an order from the police in the discharge of his duties.

In a media release Friday afternoon, the Police High Command said an investigation is underway into the circumstances surrounding the incident.

It said motorists are being advised to adhere to the instructions of police officers when stopped for traffic checks or violations.

The High Command is also insisting on professionalism being extended to members of the public. 

Last modified onFriday, 07 June 2019 22:22
  • Countries: Jamaica

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