“If the Barbados government and police think that calls for an inquiry into the death of I’Akobi Tacuma Maloney will just fade away, they are very mistaken…”
From the August 28, 2008 Barbados Free Press article Harvard Law School’s Global Voices Translates I’Akobi Tacuma Maloney Articles For Major Worldwide Audience
Inquest Into Suspicious Death Of I’Akobi Exposed The Low Level Of Professionalism Of Barbados Police
I’Akobi Maloney died in the custody of Barbados police officers on June 17, 2008 when he fell to his death over a 50 foot cliff and into the sea at Cove Bay, St. Lucy. The police say he broke free and jumped willingly to his death. I’Akobi’s family and thousands of Barbadians do not believe that story. All too late, the coroner was asked to hold an inquest – but no independent investigation was conducted to gather evidence to present to the coroner. The Barbados police would be the agency to investigate its own actions!
There would not even have been an inquest into the death of I’Akobi Maloney except for the outrage of thousands of citizens who signed the petition, wrote letters to newspapers and published the case on the Internet. There would not have been an inquest except for Maloney’s grief-stricken mother angrily confronting Prime Minister David Thompson in public. There would not have been an inquest except for the fear that world attention would be focused on Barbados. There would not have been an inquest except for the fear that the Rastafarian community of Barbados would eventually turn to violence if the cover-up continued and the police were allowed to investigate themselves.
Other less-publicized incidents involving potential police wrongdoing — such as shooting unarmed people in the back of the head — are not subject to independent inquiries (or any inquiries at all) when the victim does not have the benefit of a large and tightly organized community.
The inquest into Maloney’s death is not evidence of the supremacy of the rule of law in Barbados — it is an anomaly brought about by fear, and not a sense by the government that the right thing must always be done.
Nonetheless, here we are. The verdict of the coroner’s inquest will be delivered this Friday. We at Barbados Free Press did not attend any of the hearings and we must rely, like the majority of the population, on newspaper and media reports and the reports published on the Internet by the Rastafarian community.
And judging from those reports, no matter what the findings of the coroner, the big losers in this inquest are every officer of the Royal Barbados Police Force. The police witnesses and their upper-level management were exposed at the inquest as raw amateurs in many areas of policing, including evidence gathering, community relations, general investigation, note taking, report writing, and [ of course ] lying. They couldn’t even lie with professionalism.
“It is clear to a blind man on a galloping horse that the two of you sat down and word for word wrote a single statement, and the problem is I don’t really have a corroboration,”
… Coroner Faith Marshall-Harris to Royal Barbados Police Force officers Constable Wendell Walkes and Acting Sergeant Wingrove Headley
Truly, the inquest revealed that the Royal Barbados police force are the gang who couldn’t shoot straight — except when they shoot unarmed people in the back of the head.
So far, the list of unprofessional police conduct to come out at the inquest includes…
— The failure of police to obtain timely and individual statements from the officers present at I’Akobi’s death. statements were not obtained for two weeks, and then they were almost word for word copies — showing that the officers discussed and agreed to give a common version of the incident rather than their own true recollections as to what happened. Their statements contained even the same grammatical errors.
— The resistance of the police to allowing the family to have an independent doctor present at the postmortem.
— The failure of Assistant Police Superintendent Curvant Harvey to conduct scientific forensic tests on the police officers firearms and other equipment and clothes worn by them that day.
— The failure of police to properly photograph and document the death scene until August 6, 2008 — almost 2 months after the incident.
— The failure of police officers at the scene on the day of the death to make investigative notes, or to take photos and videos of the area and the sea state.
— Releasing evidence (I’Akoi’s shoulder bag) prior to any inquest.
— Claiming that I’Akobi was wearing his shoulder bag when he jumped into the sea, when it was obvious the bag had never been into the sea.
Once again, in a very public way, Barbados is once again seen to be a country where the police are not only in charge of investigating themselves — they are obviously incapable of doing so in a competent manner.
BFP, August 1, 2008 – Suspicious Death Brings World Attention Upon Royal Barbados Police Force