Police profiling MSM & taking their phones!
So the police in Montego Bay have been carrying out a practice of taking phones from members of the public including men who make appear to be too dressy or indeed effeminate in a bid to address so called lotto scamming activities. The practice had become so widespread that persons ended up resorting to walking with cheaper phones so as to avoid the loss of high end phones due to so called police suspicion of lotto scamming even in the face of no other evidence to detain of question the persons suspected.
One such incident in a long line of them occurred in November and then December of last year where an altercation ensued as the young men who were going home from a party were stopped and searched in a rented car. A stereotype used to profile men travelling together is that they are part of a gay lotto scamming crew given the negative image left behind by the late Kenrick BeBe Stevenson’s legacy of being a lead scammer. Bleached skin, tight fitting clothing, holders of high end phones and rented or mid priced cars as high end cars are now seen as a dead giveaway of wealth and influence supposedly led by scammers. Only in the latter part of last year we saw the LGBT credibility in an item carried on CNN and the mention by the National Security Minister Peter Bunting of BeBe and the awful scourge.
The head of the western division of the police Steven McGregor speaking at a public meeting on January 15th made it very clear that the demanding of phones by cops is not part of the procedure to identify or reasons to detain and question suspects. He said he will see to it that the practice stops as phones should only be taken from persons once there is supporting evidence that requires further investigations such as the presence or discovery of lead sheets; then and only then the proper approaches and warrants properly explained to persons can be executed to pursue further to an arrest.
We have had this problem of cops stopping persons especially in the days of Club Heavens in Discovery Bay when after a party one can expect to be stopped along the Queens Highway for no apparent reason yet the car is searched, phones are taken and in extreme cases a bribe of payment is demanded. The officers tend to use the image stereotype aforementioned to exact their actions. A similar raid occurred in Red Hills only earlier this year when a house that had suspects was essentially invaded by plain clothes persons identifying as cops without a warrant; the house was searched and items taken despite no lead sheets or other obvious items such as laptops or devices with names etc.
While I understand that the practice must be stopped as it has only brought disrepute to Jamaica and our 876 code that even legitimate business process outsourcing outfits and call centers are having trouble carrying out legitimate business especially when the caller ID displays an 876 number. The LGBT populations was fingered before some years ago of having many scammers and there may be some truth to that then but some have either been forced to leave the practice by multiple arrests or moral suasion by community influentials especially after a certain murder that shocked many into some sensibility.
Cops seemingly preying on LGBT party goers is still happening surprisingly today as I still get reports of it happening as recent as over the Christmas holidays just ended outside of the rouge ones who try to shakedown persons. At one point persons were taken in to the police precinct in Half Way Tree but no arrests were forthcoming after some time interrogating the parties involved; persons were asked openly if they were dialers and why were they able to be so young and driving a car with no hard evidence of formal work or legitimate income in their eyes. I was only stopped once while travelling from the north coast in my travels from parties I service on the hotel scene as a DJ. I guess myself and my party did not match the stereotype of suspected lotto scammers with lavish lifestyles.
Let us not forget the tense moments with Superintendent Fitz Bailey in 2008 and allegations of gays in scamming with JFLAG being on a permanent defensive mode despite no proper evidence and a usual lack of credibility on all fronts which kinda started the image credibility problem we still face to this very day.
I hope the pronouncements by the goodly Superintendent are not only words yet the squaddie mentality persists and that cops found in breach will be dealt with.
Peace & tolerance