TT police should avoid missteps of US cops


Shabaka Kambon –

ACTIVIST Shakaba Kambon reacted to the George Floyd murder trial verdict by saying local police officers must avoid certain behaviours of US officers, speaking to Newsday on Tuesday minutes after the guilty verdict.

Minneapolis policeman Derek Chauvin was found guilty on three charges, for choking to death George Floyd, a black bouncer, by kneeling on his neck for nine minutes and 29 seconds. A cell-phone recording of the infamous strangulation in front of police officers and civilians last May caused outrage in the United States and worldwide.

Kambon, amid the start of his celebrations over the verdict, said the verdict has produced a sense of relief. However, he lamented the fact that despite all the evidence of Chauvin’s guilt, people still had to hold their hearts in their hands while awaiting the verdict, spoke volumes about the state of the US justice system.

“There is a lot of work to be done.”

Kambon reckoned that some of the trends which resulted in the current state of affairs in the US have found their way to TT.

“We are genuinely concerned we could end up heading in that direction if we are not careful.”

He said a style of policing that had taken off under New York former mayor Rudy Giuliani and his police chief Bill Bratton had found favour among some in TT but had involved terrible abuses of human rights.

“Our powers that be brought them into the country to speak at the Hyatt and they help to guide out policies.

“If you just look at the police in the US and see their level of militarisation taking place in the police in TT, you start to see how similar.”

He said he had pictures of both US and TT police officers in military-style outfits where it was hard to tell the difference in the two.

“We have to look at this thing (verdict) as an important step for African-Americans but also as something for us to really take note of, how bad things could get if we don’t take stock of ourselves and look critically at the philosophy underlying the policing that we have here and see how closely it resembles what has resulted in a terrible state of affairs in that country.”

Kambon said, in the year since George Floyd’s murder, the world has awoken to the reality of the ravages of white supremacy and structural racism in the US, when previously, activists had long been told racism was all in their imagination.

“Every time we brought up the issue, we were told to be quiet and we were the ones creating divisions in society. But, in recent times in the US and globally, the whole conversation on racism has become more sophisticated than a decade ago and the terminology has transitioned to capture the reality of what we’re living.”

The world now has a heightened awareness of inequalities, Kambon said, citing his detailed conversations with activists globally.

“We have a situation in TT where there are certain classes in society that experience privilege. They are accustomed to a certain brand of policing but other sectors of our society experience blackness in relation to policing every single day.

“These are supposed to be learning moments for everyone.”

Kambon, head of the Cross Rhodes Freedom, lamented that monuments of certain historical figures still stood in TT, while having been removed elsewhere in the world.

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