Was I’Akobi Tacuma Maloney Murdered By Police?
Harvard Law School’s prestigious Global Voices project is now covering the extremely suspicious death of I’Akobi Tacuma Maloney while in the custody of Barbados police officers – but the coverage is expanding towards larger questions of ongoing human rights abuses and professional incompetence by the island’s front line law enforcement organisation. (Global Voices also translated their article into French – link here)
The police say that 23-year-old Maloney deliberately jumped to his death for no apparent reason while in the company of officers, but that account is so directly at odds with physical evidence from the scene that no reasonable person could believe that the police are telling the truth. (See BFP’s articles here and here)
Although the Rastafarian community is upset (and rightly so) and is claiming that Maloney’s death is an example of systemic RBPF prejudice against their religion, the core issue is much larger than that.
While the circumstances of Maloney’s death would be the subject of a public inquest in any truly democratic country, Barbados citizens know that they are unlikely to see an inquiry because, quite simply, Barbados does not do public inquests into anything. And especially where a public inquest would reflect badly upon the island’s carefully cultivated facade of being a respectable democracy and a safe and stable destination for tourism and offshore investment.
Barbados Police: The Reasons Behind The Downward Spiral
Successive Barbados governments have failed to rein in a police force that is increasingly seen as unaccountable, corrupt and out of control. Even citizens who would tolerate human rights abuses to keep the island safe for tourists and investors have realized that the lack of police professionalism and accountability is now deeply impacting the quality of daily life and the international image of Barbados.
A combination of factors has caused the downward spiral of what used to be seen as one of the Caribbean’s premier policing organisations. Commissioner Dottin and other senior management must shoulder much of the blame, but so too must members of the past Arthur-Mottley BLP Government: who chronically underfunded law enforcement, failed to provide effective civilian oversight and even used the police and other public agencies as tools to achieve personal wealth and to target political and business rivals.
It can truly be said that the Royal Barbados Police Force is in many ways a victim of our country’s most senior political leaders who view the Rule of Law as a matter of personal convenience. Certainly the defining public moment in this disrespect for rule of law was the unethical appointment of Attorney General David Simmons as Chief Justice by the Arthur – Mottley BLP government.
With the appointment of Attorney General David Simmons as Chief Justice, the separation of powers between the government, the police and the justice system ceased to exist on a practical basis in Barbados. The normal checks and balances that controlled abuses and limited individual power simply disappeared.
The end result of this abuse of the system was that the police, as individuals and as an organisation, followed the government’s example and decided that they too were above the rule of law.
A Pattern Of Human Rights Abuse By Royal Barbados Police Force
The death of I’Akobi Tacuma Maloney is on a certain level only the latest public evidence that policing and the rule of law are in deep trouble in Barbados.
In Barbados, the police can shoot an innocent, unarmed man in the BACK of the head – and there will be no public examination or questions. In Barbados, criminal charges regularly disappear from the courts without any public questions or outrage. In Barbados, the elites in gated communities can beat their wives without fear that the police will even answer a woman’s call for help. In Barbados, the justice system cannot even bring a child rapist to trial in ten years if the accused has connections.
The death of I’Akobi Tacuma Maloney is a tragedy for a young man and his family and friends, but I’Akobi’s death is also a symptom of a disease that threatens the very foundation of our society – a disease of corruption that is now deeply embedded in our culture. Expect more deaths and abuses until the rule of law is restored in Barbados.