Tue | Nov 30, 2021

INDECOM calls on JCF to examine officers with multiple complaints

Published:Friday | October 1, 2021 | 12:07 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has renewed its call for a full roll-out of body-worn cameras among the security forces even as it acknowledged the increased use of their own devices by some cops to record incidents and provide investigators with evidence.

The agency, which probes reports of abuse by members of the security forces and deaths in custody, also used yesterday briefing as it released its second quarterly report for 2021 to urge the leadership of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) to examine officers against whom multiple complaints have been made.

“Body-worn cameras are a common feature of today’s law enforcement operations globally. We urge the law enforcement bodies to equip operational officers with the requisite instruments to record their conduct,” INDECOM Commissioner Hugh Faulkner said yesterday.

Successive administrations have been skirting around the full enforcement and implementation of body-worn cameras on operations since it was mooted in 2014.

Faulkner stressed that footage from such cameras would be helpful not only for the security forces and the public, but for the greater interest of justice.

“We note that increasing prevalence of officers themselves utilising their own mobile phones to record interactions is illustrative of their appreciation of how such recordings provide support for their own accounts and temper the behaviours of other officers, and are clear records of the citizens’ own behaviours, at times, which are not good,” said INDECOM Deputy Commissioner Hamish Campbell.

INDECOM acknowledged that certain aspects of allegations against the police officers require further examination.

“Nineteen officers were involved in two or more complaints in 2020. One officer was allegedly involved in three complaints of assault. Some officers, whilst only in complaints of one in 2020, were already the subject of previous complaints by the public for earlier years,” Campbell said.

“The above-mentioned 19 officers have an accumulated total of 57 assault allegations made against them. There are a total of 123 complaints levelled against the 19 officers,” Campbell said.

The assaults, according to INDECOM, cannot be considered isolated situations and include fatal shootings, discharge of firearms and shooting incidents.

INDECOM says one officer is the subject of 22 complainants between 2012 and 2021, five of which were assault.

The commission said when it investigated cases, the greater majority of law enforcers agreed to use of force but cited self-defence.

There were 394 separate complaints of assault made to INDECOM against the security forces in 2020, which was higher than previous years.

For the last five years, the commission said total assault reports were 1,522.

“... In 2020, there was an increase on the previous years, which normally were less than 300,” noted Campbell as he highlighted the 41 per cent increase in assault allegations in 2020.

INDECOM said 76 per cent of the complaints were against police officers, with Kingston and St Andrew recording the majority of complaints, and Portland the least.

“Not surprisingly, Kingston and St Andrew ... received 31 per cent, or one-third, of all assault complaints, but it does highlight an interesting point that Portland parish only received five complaints of assault against the police, which is noteworthy and requires reflection by the JCF ... ,” Campbell said.

INDECOM also said that there were instances of persons being assaulted after going to police stations to make a report or speak about something.

Assault at police stations accounts for 55 reports. However, those stations were not identified.

Campbell noted that complaints were received from persons of varying social status – “professionals, semi-professionals, tradespeople, skilled workers, ex-police officers, attorneys, court staff, businessmen, businesswomen”.

INDECOM pointed to very few complaints, only seven per cent, were from individuals who were unemployed.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com