Thursday, March 4, 2010
About three weeks ago, a senior police officer in St Catherine said that men wearing trousers below the waistline would not be allowed to do so in his jurisdiction. By all indications, the statement by the policeman is very popular. I do not like the style at all. It smacks of vulgarity and to me it is a sign of moral decadence. But can the indecency law as it stands be stretched to include the exposure of underwear? I do not think so.
What the law seeks to prevent is the exposure of naked genitalia and buttocks. At the time when the law was made, it was customary for people to bathe naked in rivers and streams at least 25 feet from the main road, which I do not have problem with, but naked exposure in public was illegal. Underwear in those days was made from heavy material, was not tight, was long enough and in most cases sufficiently covered areas one would not want to expose. Men would normally put on their footwear before they donned their baggy trousers.
It was published in the 1980s that when National Hero Norman Manley practised law, one day he forgot to don his trousers and discovered the memory lapse when he arrived at work. Apparently he had told his chauffeur not to disturb him while being driven to work as that was the only time that he had to read the newspapers. One morning while being driven the chauffeur kept calling "Mr Manley", but Mr Manley did not answer and kept reading the newspaper.
When Norman Manley arrived at work, the following dialogue took place:
Manley: Didn't I tell you not to disturb me while I am reading the newspapers in the car?
Driver: But it is important, Mr Manley!
Manley: Well, what is so important then?
Driver: You don't have on any pants, Sir.
Norman Manley then looked down and saw his exposed legs in his shoes and socks and burst out laughing. But while you may frown on Manley for making such a mistake which was part of his absent-minded nature, no one would have arrested him for indecency.
Four decades ago, Rastafarians were rejected by Jamaican society. It was not until Bob Marley and Peter Tosh had gained international recognition in Reggae performances that Rastafari became acceptable in Jamaica. The police, who have always sought to please the upper and middle classes, decided on their own to arrest and cut the locks of Rastafarians and anyone with the large "Afros" which were in vogue in those days.
On one occasion, my father the late Keith C Burke who was an attorney, wrote a letter to the newspapers pointing out that police had no legal right to cut anyone's hair. The cutting of anyone's hair by police subsided after that because of my father's reputation as a no-nonsense, civil-suit lawyer. It has long been suspected that police will appear to be doing the right things by going after things that annoy the upper classes. Some suspect that this is a cover for illegal activities by the police.
So it was assumed in the 1960s that anyone with locks was "bad" and now it is being assumed that anyone who wears his pants below the waist is "bad". In this way, it is believed, the real criminal gets away. Indeed, it is much easier to go after the more innocent people than to track down the hardened criminals. But this "baccra-massa" pleasing by police has a very long history. The current police force came into being after the 1865 Morant Bay Rebellion to ensure that poor black people would never again rise up against the white planter class of the day.
Unfortunately, at political independence in 1962, many of the brown people who took over the top government jobs from the English people saw themselves as the new "baccra", which may still be the case today. Despite nearly 48 years of political independence, neo-colonialism persists among the wealthy and among the poor. It is seen in the adoption of vulgar styles of dress from North America and Europe.
I would never like us to go back to the days of heavy dressing in a tropical country. But it is vulgar for anyone to wear clothing publicly that does not adequately cover the private areas. I do not like to see men dressed as women and vice versa. Indeed, I have a song written and sung by me that has been played on some radio stations called, Man fe look like man. And I do not defend slackness. Nor do I support the moral decadence that is found in too many places. Yes, it is against the law to expose naked genitalia and buttocks in public.
Should the law include exposure of underwear as indecency? Perhaps it should, but at present there is no such law. And it is a most dangerous precedent for the police to be making their own laws as they go along. Today it is pants worn below the waist. What will it be tomorrow? I opine that those with strong views against the low-wearing of pants by men or women should make representations to Parliament to repeal the law. And the rest of us should simply wait until the law is changed.
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Steps to Take When Contronted or Arrested by Police
b) Only give name and address and no other information until a lawyer is present to assist
c) Try to be polite even if the scenario is tensed) Don’t do anything to aggravate the situation
e) Every complaint lodged at a police station should be filed and a receipt produced, this is not a legal requirement but an administrative one for the police to track reports
f) Never sign to a statement other than the one produced by you in the presence of the officer(s)
g) Try to capture a recording of the exchange or incident or call someone so they can hear what occurs, place on speed dial important numbers or text someone as soon as possible
h) File a civil suit if you feel your rights have been violatedi) When making a statement to the police have all or most of the facts and details together for e.g. "a car" vs. "the car" represents two different descriptions
j) Avoid having the police writing the statement on your behalf except incases of injuries, make sure what you want to say is recorded carefully, ask for a copy if it means that you have to return for it