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No Protocols, No Body-Worn Cameras: INDECOM’s Comments

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INDECOM press conference 27-9-17 - Terrence WilliamsThe Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) held a press conference yesterday to give information about its 2nd Quarterly Report for 2017, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, September 26, 2017. During the press conference, INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams gave some important information about the organization’s experience of the use of body cameras by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). This information answers some of the questions I raised in my blog post a couple of days ago and certainly doesn’t lessen concerns that I have had.

No Body-Worn Cameras Worn By Officers Involved In Any Shooting Events Under INDECOM Investigation

The 2nd Quarterly Report 2017 includes a section which gives an update on recommendations of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry that are relevant to INDECOM’s remit. One of these had to do with body-worn cameras:

INDECOM 2nd Quarterly Report 2017 - WKGNCOE body cameras

INDECOM 2nd Quarterly Report 2017, p.35

In speaking about this recommendation, Commissioner Williams said the following:

The other issue was body-worn cameras. The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry said that this should be issued to police officers and soldiers, that is these cameras, without undue delay. We understand that the United States Embassy has donated body-worn cameras to the police force, but we are still hearing reports of delays in widespread implementation, and technical and policy issues have been cited to explain the delay. And in none of the shooting events that we have under investigation, including planned operations, were any body-worn cameras worn by the officers involved.

(Transcribed from recording of INDECOM September 27, 2017 press conference)

Seven months ago the JCF announced that some policemen in a number of divisions would begin to wear body cameras; I think it was said to be four divisions. It is extremely disturbing to now learn that in none of the shooting incidents being investigated by INDECOM were the officers involved wearing body cameras. Not even in planned operations. The JCF needs to let the public know what policy has guided who wears the body cameras and what has been recorded on them, if not footage of ANY shooting events. Indeed, what analysis has been done of the body camera use over this period? Maybe we even need to ask if the body cameras are in fact being worn at all.

INDECOM Has No Knowledge of Body-Worn Camera Protocols For Use Inside or Outside Of Special Zones

During the press conference, I asked Commissioner Williams whether the JCF has yet shared its body-worn camera protocols with INDECOM and whether INDECOM has been consulted regarding the body-worn camera protocols and procedures required under the Zones of Special Operations Act. This was his response:

We know of no protocols for the zones or otherwise. On our visit to the Zone we observed no-one wearing any cameras. It still seems to be for the JCF a work in progress, as regards the institution of the body-worn cameras, although they have some of the devices. We are eager to see this instituted, because one thing that most people don’t realise, and I’ll say it, most of the police shootings that you have in Jamaica have no witnesses but the police. So most of them will have no resolution but the police version, which may be true or it may be false. The body-worn camera provides that…an assistance in that accountability. And we were arguing from day one that why not use the body-worn cameras on those planned operations. So that you know you are going into a confrontation-type situation, it’s a very good time to wear the camera. So that your version of events can be depicted in this way of real evidence. We’re not seeing that at all. And we’ve had no update on it.

(Transcribed from recording of INDECOM September 27, 2017 press conference)

It is completely unacceptable and counterproductive  that the independent Commission of Parliament mandated “to undertake investigations concerning actions by members of the Security Forces and other agents of the State that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of rights of persons” (Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2010) has not been consulted regarding the protocols governing the use of body-worn cameras by the security forces. Neither in regard to the JCF’s protocols which should have been in place months ago nor for the protocols required by the more recent Zones of Special Operations Act. Body-worn cameras have been put forward as a tool to improve accountability and transparency in the operations of the security forces and to increase trust in these bodies. How can this be achieved in a situation in which INDECOM is left completely out of the loop? And if INDECOM has no knowledge of the protocols yet, at what point is it likely that the protocols will be shared with the public?

Inadequate protocols can undermine any benefit that might be gained by the use of body-worn cameras. How can we know if the protocols are adequate, if we don’t know what the protocols are?

It is imperative that INDECOM be immediately involved in the drafting of the body-worn camera protocols and procedures and that they be shared more broadly before they are finalised. The process to date does little to support the credibility of the use of body-worn cameras in Jamaica.

Note:INDECOM 2nd Quarterly Report 2017 cover

Normally I would have provided a link to a copy of the INDECOM Quarterly Report, but it hasn’t been posted online yet and I don’t yet have a soft copy. As soon as I can, I will post a link or a copy.

Related posts

Body-Worn Cameras: A Secret Transparency Tool?

350 Words or Less: Police Using Body Cameras, But What Protocol Is Regulating Their Use?

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Author: rightpouitree

Navigating the real and virtual worlds and sometimes writing about what I observe...

One thought on “No Protocols, No Body-Worn Cameras: INDECOM’s Comments

  1. More squaddie shoddiness 🤔😩

    Liked by 1 person

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