Express Editorial : Daily

The shootout between the police constable and coastguardsman that left both men dead on Saturday night is another senseless tragedy arising out of the far too easy access to guns in settling personal grievances.

While both the Police Service and the Coast Guard have so far limited their statements to condolences to the families of Constable Jomo Gulston and Coast Guard officer Jabari Francois, this incident requires a full enquiry to establish whether the possession of service-issued guns by off-duty officers was within procedure. If it was not, then questions should be asked about the internal weapons management systems in both the TTPS and the Coast Guard.

From all reports, this deadly incident was triggered by one man’s violent response to a personal dispute which is an all-too-common feature in this country where the combination of anger and guns claims lives on an almost daily basis. However, when those entrusted with upholding the law succumb to rage and seek to settle their differences with the very guns issued for keeping the peace, a line of trust is breached.

There has been much comment about this incident on social media which, incredibly, has focused on the woman who was allegedly in a relationship with the Coast Guard officer. It is alarming how difficult it still is to dislodge the culture that is willing to rationalise, and even forgive men who resort to violence in a fit of jealous rage, the assumption being that a man’s loss of control is the woman’s fault.

Until the responsibility is placed squarely where it belongs—on the perpetrator of violence—violent men will continue to get a free pass, making it impossible to root out the scourge of domestic violence which, according to Deputy Commissioner of Police McDonald Jacob, has already claimed 114 lives, almost one-third of the 399 lives lost for this year so far.

For many women involved with policemen, soldiers, coast guardsmen and other security personnel, the awareness that their partner has easy access to a gun is a source of fear when the relationship begins to break down.

This newspaper has covered many stories of women who have expressed real fear for their lives because the men they were intimately involved with had threatened them with their service-issued guns.

The power enjoyed by officers to carry arms should be balanced by enforcement of the responsibility attached to this. The protective services should be serious in signalling a zero-tolerance policy towards officers using the advantage of having access to a service-issued gun for settling any dispute outside of their work.

What occurred on Saturday night in Diego Martin was a tragedy that not only claimed two lives but hurt many others.

The protective services must not stop at just lamenting the quick resort to violence in settling personal scores but ensure that they are not themselves contributing to the problem within their ranks by tolerating male violence on the grounds of unbearable emotional pain, lax management of their weapons, recruitment of emotionally unstable persons, and a lack of alertness to the psychological health of officers.

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