Editorial: A little restraint

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How does a man, accused of the heinous crime of murder, get an opportunity to jump off the balcony of the St. John’s Police Station, and flee to freedom?  That is the burning question on many people’s minds after news hit that murder accused Keneca Ryan successfully escaped police custody, not long after surrendering himself to police.
The story has people on edge and has become a public relations nightmare for the police force.  It has been reported that an investigation is underway to find out where Ryan went after he escaped but people are more concerned about an investigation into how he could have escaped in the first place.  Not only that, he seemed to have been without any form of restraint when he jumped to the street below.  
The circumstances surrounding his escape are what has captivated the public. While we understand that the police are curious about where Mr. Ryan went for those few hours on the loose, and why there was a burning need to escape after his voluntary surrender, few in the public are, but at least, they are keeping their sense of humour, with one person commenting that he must have wanted a last taste of Kentucky before being locked up.
All kidding aside, there are questions that need to be answered by the police and we suggest that they are presented to the public by the commissioner in order to demonstrate that the force is understanding of the public’s concerns and is treating the matter with the seriousness that it deserves.  
Everyone could relate to his first victim, Ava “Sassy” McKenzie, who was minding her business and peacefully working at a shoe repair shop on Nelson Alley; the apparent first stop of the escapee after his dash from authorities.  Ryan approached McKenzie and aggressively demanded her phone.  Luckily for everyone, Sassy recognised him as the ‘formerly’ man wanted for the murder of businessman Campbell Jackson and wounding of son Jari Jackson and his friend Tevin George.  
As her name would reveal, Sassy is not one to back down in challenging situations.  She quickly processed all the recent news and determined that Ryan must have recently escaped. She told him, in an equally aggressive tone, that she did not have a phone.  Quick thinking and a cool demeanour allowed Sassy to take advantage of Ryan’s obvious nervousness in this potentially dangerous situation.
The point is that not everyone is a Sassy.  We could easily imagine a different outcome with someone who may have been a more afraid and pliable victim. And this is why many people feel very afraid after they heard the story; they could have been that victim.
Now, we are confident that the police are doing all in their power to keep the public safe but the concerns raised in this situation do need to be addressed, and addressed as soon as possible.  Chief among those concerns is: How are persons accused of violent crimes handled by the police when being processed?  We do not want to tell the police how to do their jobs but, at a minimum, we would have thought that they would be restrained in some way, either physically shackled to a fixed object or restrained enough to make a quick getaway extremely difficult.
In this case, the suspect was able to leap from the balcony and flee from several officers, who pursued him.  Even if he was only handcuffed, he would have been probably caught in the foot-chase as he would not have been able to pump his arms as he ran, making him a slower target to intercept.  Not only that, the handcuffs would have immediately identified him to bystanders as an escapee.
We certainly can understand that if he was being moved, he would not have been shackled to a non-moveable object but we would have thought that he would be moved under the firm grip of a policeman.
It is difficult for the public to feel safe when people, who have been accused of extreme violence, can so easily escape the police.  Already, Ryan was a highly publicised, wanted man who was accused with three other men of gunning down Campbell Jackson and wounding two others.  The public felt uneasy that he was somewhere in their community so to have the relief that he had surrendered erased shortly after, only made the situation worse.  
At this point, the best thing for the police to do is to be transparent.  This situation ended well, and no one was hurt, so if there were mistakes, own up to them. Tell the people what went wrong and what is being done to address the security inadequacies that led to this escape.  That sort of response will go a long way to rebuilding confidence with the public.
We invite you to visit www.antiguaobserver.com and give us your feedback on our opinion.

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