Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Advertising for Police Commissioner & Other Public Posts

Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) Novelette Grant will assume the position of Acting-Commissioner on January 7, 2017, when the current Commissioner’s resignation takes effect. Commissioner Carl Williams’ resignation became public on December 22, 2016, when his resignation letter, submitted weeks earlier, was leaked. Commissioner Williams explained that the timing and manner in which his resignation became public knowledge wasn’t the best, as it had been planned that the news wouldn’t be made public until the selection of Acting-Commissioner had been completed. rjr-report-on-resignation-of-cop-williams-22-12-16This RJR report (including an audio clip from his interview with journalist Dionne Jackson Miller) was one of many media reports dealing with the news of Commissioner Williams’ resignation at the time.

The Ministry of National Security quickly issued a press release  thanking Commissioner Williams for his service and dealing with other issues connected with the resignation and replacement process. (mns-police-commissioner-to-demit-office-22-12-16)

dcp-novelette-grantThe following day, the Police Service Commission (PSC) announced that DCP Grant would act as Commissioner during the search period, a process that is expected to take 90 days. In a speech on Sunday (Jan 1, 2017), DCP Grant made the pragmatic statement that there would be no miracles in the process of dealing with crime and none should be expected of her.

Also on Sunday, the advertisement for the post of Commissioner was carried in the press. It focussed on the duties and responsibilities of Commissioner and set out the deadline and contacts for submission of applications. DCP Grant is so far the only person to have publicly declared an intention to apply for the post and she is, in fact, a very likely candidate for selection.

gleaner-advt-for-commissioner-of-police-1-1-17-pt-1gleaner-advt-for-commissioner-of-police-1-1-17-pt-2

I think that the advertisement posted is seriously lacking in one regard. It does not set out in any specificity the qualifications and experience required of applicants for the post of Commissioner of Police. What level of experience in law enforcement is required? Must experience be within policing or will experience in some other context be considered, for example the military, correctional services or private security? Is there a minimum number of years of experience necessary for consideration? What level of supervisory/managerial experience is required? What are the preferred and minimum educational requirements for the post? These are a few of the requirements that could reasonably be expected to be specified in such an advertisement. It would also be useful to know if the PSC is advertising the post outside of Jamaica, regionally or further afield.

I have long thought that this is an approach that should be taken routinely when advertising vacant public posts, not just for the current vacancy for Commissioner of Police. It gives the public a clearer idea of the criteria considered important for successful fulfilment of the job. It also gives the public a basis for evaluating how well the candidate eventually appointed meets the required qualifications and experience for the post. This would support the increased move towards transparency and accountability required in modern approaches to good governance. It is not too late for the PSC to adopt this approach, and perhaps it is time for this to become routine and required when advertising  vacancies for public posts in Jamaica.

 

 

 


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A Schoolgirl Gets Shot In a Taxi…By the Police…?

It has been another violence-filled week in Jamaica. And included in the violence was the shooting up of an illegal taxi by the police, according to witnesses including the driver, which resulted in a schoolgirl who was a passenger being shot and injured. This happened on Thursday morning, when the taxi was transporting a number of students on their way to school.

That afternoon, a young man selling at a traffic light approached my car and, making a gesture of winding down the window, signaled that he wanted to talk to me. I put the window down and he asked if I was the lady he sometimes saw on TV talking about INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigation). When I replied yes, he began what I can only call a pouring out of his heart.

It was about the shooting of the Alpha schoolgirl. He was angry and in pain. He asked if people pickni can be shot just so and nothing come of it. He said that police can’t just shoot up a taxi because they have something with the driver, and they don’t even know who is in the taxi. It cudda him madda eena di taxi an im neva know. How im would ah feel den? Eeeh? Dem nuh care.

He went on to talk about the police harassing the taxi drivers, who he said were not stealing. They were trying to make a living, to send their children to school. Like him, he said. Mi out yah ah sell fi support my family. Ah di same ting dem ah do.

He asked if I had heard what was happening downtown, and spoke about the protests, with road blocks and fires being set in some places. I said I had heard about it before I left home. He said people were doing it because they heard that the schoolgirl had died. I said that I had heard that was what had sparked the protests but on the radio they had reported that she was still alive. No, he said, from two o’clock wi hear seh she dead. (She is actually still battling for life in hospital.)

INDECOM tweets 30-6-16 aI told him that INDECOM said they were already investigating the case and that they would be giving an update as soon as they got more information.

The light changed & the line of traffic moved forward, and the young man walked beside the car and continued to talk when I stopped again. He told me that he had recently been backed up by a policeman, right out here, he said. Him seh him goin shoot mi. Mi ask him if him tink him cyan shoot mi an nuttn  goin’ happen. Dem tink is di whole ah Jamaica nuh know nuttn.

As the traffic light changed again, he said he heard the policeman had been taken in. Dem mus charge him, he said. And the last words I heard as I drove away were – But dem shuddn even try him. Dem should jus do him what him do di likkle girl.

Layers upon layers of violence. Which is why the investigations and the formal justice and accountability systems must work and must be seen to be working.

Responses to the Shooting

INDECOM issued this press release yesterday:

INDECOM Release 30-6-16INDECOM PROBING SHOOTING INJURY OF 15-Y-O ALPHA STUDENT

June 30, 2016 – The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has launched an investigation into the shooting injury of a 15 year old female student of the Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha). The incident occurred at the intersection of North Street and Mark Lane at approximately 7:15 a.m.

The student underwent emergency surgery at the Kingston Public Hospital and is now recovering in the Intensive Care Unit.

The report received by INDECOM is that a man operating a “robot” taxi transporting students of Convent of Mercy Academy (Alpha) was allegedly stopped by police. It is also being alleged that after the taxi had stopped, the police opened fire at the vehicle hitting the student.

A team of investigators and forensic examiners responded to the incident following the report. The incident scene was processed; the motor car in question was also processed; investigators collected statements from witnesses to the incident.

The Commission is asking anyone who may have witnessed or can provide any information about the incident to call or visit its office in Kingston at 1.876.968.1932, or call our mobile number at 1.876.878.0167. Persons are also encouraged to call our new Toll Free Lines: 1.888.991.5555 or 1.888.935.5550.

NB: In the Commission’s 4th Quarterly Report for 2015, the issue of shooting at vehicles was discussed extensively. We invite members of the media and the public to peruse the document with a view to understanding the policies and legal issues related to incidents of this nature. Visit our website: http://www.indecom.gov.jm (Click on Reports then “The 4th INDECOM Quarterly Report”)

 

COP Carl WilliamsDuring a discussion on Nationwide News Network yesterday, Commissioner of Police Carl Williams made the following comments while responding to several questions from hosts Cliff Hughes and Dennis Brooks:

No police officer came forward to report that incident, and so we are going based on the allegations that have been made. We have started investigations already, to identify the…if police officers were involved and, if police officers were actually involved, we will identify them, not some time from now but very soon. And they will be subject to the fullest consequences.

We still have ballistic evidence that we can pursue and so we also can narrow down to police officers who were supposed to have been in the area at the time.

 

We heard that it was an unmarked police vehicle…an unmarked vehicle…

…if it were a police vehicle, no shots should have been fired. Unless a police officer is, unless his life is threatened or unless the life of someone from the community, a citizen, is threatened, the police are not authorized to fire their weapons. We have gotten to the point where it is not even okay for the police to fire their weapon when justified; it is okay to fire when justified and when it is necessary for the police to fire. Because there are instances in which there might be justification but it might not be necessary. And so it must be necessary and it must be justified before the police can fire their weapons. That is how we have been able to manage in the last two or so years. And that is how we have been able to reduce the number of fatal contacts between the police and citizens. And so if it were a police officer’s …if it were police officers in this situation, then certainly that would have been inconsistent with the policy and the direction that the JCF is taking at this time.

(Transcribed from recording of Nationwide News Network interview with COP Carl Williams by Cliff Hughes & Dennis Brooks, 30-6-16)

 

The 2015 4th Quarterly Report mentioned in INDECOM’s press release is worth looking at both for its information about the issue of firing on vehicles and for the picture it gives of the reporting INDECOM does about its cases, investigations and work.

INDECOM 4th Quarterly report 2015 full

I hope that the child who was injured recovers fully. I hope that those who shot her are found. There is much urgent work that needs to be done, as we keep finding ourselves at the point of having to express similar hopes over and over again.

 


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Resumption of the Death Penalty?

Calls for the resumption of hanging in Jamaica are made periodically, often at a time when there is an increase in the number of murders or in a period when there have been particularly vicious or high profile murders. People are understandably angry, afraid and frustrated and want to see something done to curb violent crimes and  punish those who commit murder. The death penalty seems like an uncomplicated action to call for, a finite action with seeming immediacy to it. And so the call: reintroduce the death penalty; start hanging again.

JIS Robert MontagueThe call  has over time been made by people in various spheres across the society and the latest call has come from Minister of National Security Robert Montague, in a speech at a Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Passing Out Parade and Awards Ceremony  at the National Police College of Jamaica, at Twickenham Park, on  April 29. (Click here for JIS release: Govt. to Wage Relentless War against Criminals)

 

Mr. Montague said the Ministry’s overall approach to creating safer communities is based on five key pillars –  crime prevention through social development; situational prevention; effective policing; swift and sure justice processes; and reducing re-offending. (JIS – April 30, 2016)

It was while speaking about justice processes that Minister Montague made his comments about the resumption of hanging:

These first two pillars will be further buffeted (sic) by having an effective system in place that increases the risk to criminals of getting caught, to bringing more of them to justice and delivering sure, swift yet just punishment. It cannot be that persons feel comfortable to exact criminality but do not expect to be severely punished. Persons who intend to break the law must know that the punishment will be sure, swift and just. In that regard I have asked the Minister of State, Senator Pearnel Charles, Jr to consult with a number of agencies, including the Attorney General’s Office and the Ministry of Justice to determine if there are any legal impediments for the resumption of hanging in Jamaica.

Minister Montague

(Click for transcript of Excerpt from Speech by Minister of Security Robert Montague – April 29, 2016 dealing with the five key pillars mentioned above.)

Last week, when I first heard an audio clip from the Minister’s speech during a newscast, his phrase “sure, swift and just” struck me. This is certainly something that is needed as part of the strategy to deal with violent crime.

Sure: What is the likelihood that someone who commits murder in Jamaica will be apprehended, tried and convicted for their crime?

The JCF’s Corporate Plan for 2015-2018 states that for the period 2009- 2014, “The combination of improved investigative capabilities and the application of technology have paid rich dividends, which resulted in a 41 percent cleared-up rate for murder; 72 percent for aggravated assault; 41 percent for shooting and just below 50 percent for rape.” In a 2013 article in the Jamaica Observer, then DCP in charge of crime (now Commissioner of Police) Carl Williams explained the meaning of “cleared-up” in the Jamaican policing context:

Commissioner-of-Police-Carl-McKay-Williams“Clear-up rate of murders are a little below 50 per cent right now, but my mission is to ensure that we get it above 50 per cent for murders, so we may ensure that a person is less likely to get away with murder than to be out there walking free to commit other murders,” Williams said.

Noting that the clear-up of crimes is the clearest measure of effectiveness of investigators or detectives, Williams — in clarifying what is meant by the term — noted that in some countries a crime is cleared up when the police identify the suspect. However, this is different for Jamaica as Williams explained that clearing-up of a crime not only occurs when the suspect is identified but when he/she is arrested and charged following a process of investigation.

“A crime may also be cleared up if the person responsible for the crime is unavailable for arrest and prosecution by virtue of the fact that he is dead or in custody in another jurisdiction,” Williams further explained. (Jamaica Observer – Dec 4, 2013)

According to the JCF, the cleared-up rate for 2015 was 55%, which indicates an improvement in their figures, but still means there is a great likelihood that someone who commits murder will not even face prosecution for the crime.

There is an even more remote likelihood that a person who commits murder will be convicted, as the conviction rate for murder in Jamaica is cited as 5%.

So we do not have a sure system. If there is a 95% chance that you will never be convicted, it doesn’t much matter whether the sentence is hanging or life imprisonment. In fact, what has been shown to have the greatest deterrent effect is the likelihood of being apprehended and convicted for the crime, not whether the punishment will be the death penalty.

Swift: How quickly is a person who has been charged with murder likely to be tried?

Long delays are the norm in our justice system and this has been so for decades. A March 31, 2016 Gleaner article contained this information:

paulaLlewellynThere were 522 cases on the court list at the start of the Hilary term in January, and, according to Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) Paula Llewellyn, 127 of them are five years or older – all murder cases.

Llewellyn, who was speaking at the start of the Easter term yesterday, said 96 of these cases are down for trial during this term and that her office is ready to proceed with 51….

According to Llewellyn, 526 cases are on the Circuit Court list for this Easter term. That number includes the 504 cases that were rolled over from the previous term, 328 of which were for murder. (Daily Gleaner – March 31, 2016) 

There have been cases which have not come to trial until 7, 8, 9 or 10 years after the murder was committed. In recent discussions about the perennial delays in the justice system, many causes were given, as they have been in the past. There is a great deal of work to be done to make our systems deliver justice swiftly, or even in a timely manner, as envisaged by the Mission Statement of Jamaica’s Courts.

Just: How do you guarantee a just outcome in a flawed and corrupt system?

Beyond the fundamental issue of whether the death penalty can be classified as a  just punishment, lies the question of the dangers posed to justice by a flawed and corrupt system. On page 26 of the 2008 JCF Strategic Review Report, a number of corrupt practices said to be endemic in the police force are listed, some of them having the potential to impact directly on the outcome of an investigation, prosecution and conviction.

Strategic review of JCF pg 26 with border

There have been instances in which physical violence and threats have been used to obtain confessions; statements have been forged by policemen to support a case; evidence has disappeared (eaten by rats or burned up in mysterious fires); files have gone missing; etc.

Long delays have also given rise to the death, migration or other unavailability of witnesses,  or the fading of memories with time. Issues of inadequate legal representation or access to resources to support a case also have the potential to impact a just outcome. Cases in other jurisdictions have seen DNA evidence exonerating people who have been serving long sentences for crimes they were wrongly convicted of. Do we believe that our justice system is free of such cases?

All these problems also affect cases which carry sentences other than capital punishment, and can result in unjust outcomes too. But where the sentence is death, should the State take the risk of executing a person for a crime they did not commit?

Opposition Spokesperson Responds

Opposition Spokesperson on Justice & Governance, Senator Mark Golding gave a useful response the next day, in a press release which included the following:

The Opposition Spokesperson on Justice & Governance stated – “I do not regard Minister Montague’s announcement that the Government is seeking ‘to determine if there are any legal impediments for the resumption of hanging in Jamaica’ as a serious policy initiative that will be implemented. The Government can’t hang more people; nor, as a practical matter, can Parliament.  Only the Courts can make that happen, and the Courts are governed by the rule of law and, in particular, the human rights guarantees in our Constitution.

mark goldingIt should also be borne in mind that the reactivation of the death penalty, after a de facto moratorium over the 28 years since 1988, will bring condemnation on Jamaica, and possibly even adverse action, by those of our most important international development partners that are most hostile to the death penalty (e.g. the European Union and Canada), and trigger strongly adverse criticism from the international human rights community.  The Government must decide if it wants to inflict that on Jamaica at this time, and we as a society must also be very clear that we are doing the correct thing and for the correct reasons. 

Full release: Opposition responds to Minister Montague’s comments on the Death Penalty 30-4-16

There is a great deal to be done to prevent and deal with violent crime in Jamaica. Both Minister Montague and Senator Golding refer to some of these other measures. People may think that in calling for the resumption of the death penalty, they are calling for something straightforward and effective, that can be implemented quickly, with immediate results on the murder rate. This is not so. And part of my concern whenever this call comes up is that it diverts attention and energy from the measures which will in fact have a real impact. A sure, swift and just system will impact the levels of crime, without the resumption of the death penalty, which I do not support for a number of reasons.


Seeking An Answer From Police Commissioner About Removal of Masks At Political Meetings

I heard the Commissioner of Police, Dr Carl Williams, being interviewed on Nationwide radio yesterday afternoon. During the interview, the Commissioner said that as of now, when people wear masks at political meetings, the masks will be removed by the police.

I would ask the Commissioner to clarify what provision in law the police would be acting on in doing so.

I am genuinely seeking an answer.

The Commissioner and other members of the JCF have been raising the concern about the practice of wearing masks to political meetings. The Commissioner said during the interview that people who wear masks are concealing their identities with the intention of committing criminal acts. (There was some irony to this, given long-standing complaints about the practice of some police of wearing masks during operations, effectively concealing their identities in instances of alleged police abuses.) Cliff Hughes, who was conducting the interview, later raised the possibility that those wearing masks were wanting to attend meetings of both parties without being identified.

jcf cop statement re 7-2-16 shooting at jlp rallyGiven the shooting on Sunday night during the JLP mass meeting in Sam Sharpe Square, in which two people were killed, a number of people were shot and injured and the safety of many more threatened, I can understand the desire of the police to increase security at political events. The Commissioner said that police investigations indicated that the incident wasn’t politically motivated, but was related to conflict between two gangs based in the Flankers community in MoBay. He has said that criminals would use any event as an opportunity to carry out their criminal actions.

It is one thing for the police to express their concerns; to encourage people not to wear masks to political meetings; to ask the political parties to get their supporters to desist from the practice; to seek a meeting with the Political Ombudsman to gain her support in having the practice banned. JCF tweet re masks - 9-2-16It is another thing for the police to actually be removing masks, unless there is a power in law which provides for them to do so.

If the police have a reasonable suspicion that a masked person has committed a crime or is about to commit a crime, then the police can arrest the person and require the removal of the mask as part of the process of establishing the person’s identity. But other than that?

I hope Commissioner Williams will clarify.

(This does lead to a more general discussion about the extent of an individual’s right to cover their face in public, which in some countries has led to heated debate.)

 

 


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Police Commissioner Williams’ Presentation in Parliament Today, On Murders in Jamaica

This morning, Commissioner of Police Carl Williams made a presentation in Parliament to the Internal & External Affairs Committee, chaired by Opposition MP Derrick Smith. The presentation was about the current situation regarding murders in Jamaica and the murder reduction strategies being implemented by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).

carlwilliamsc20140908ng

At the start of the session, Government MP Mikael Phillips, supported by a number of other Government members of the committee, suggested that the session should be held in camera, due to the potentially sensitive nature of the exchange following the Commissioner’s presentation. Derrick Smith and Delroy Chuck, the two Opposition MPs present disagreed, saying that any questions that were of a sensitive nature could be disallowed by the Chair, and that Commissioner Williams was also entitled to refrain from answering any questions he felt would reveal sensitive information.

Eventually, MP Phillips put forward a motion that Commissioner Williams should make his presentation in open session, but that the question and answer session should be held in camera. Given the numbers in the Chamber, MP Smith didn’t bother to put the motion to a vote, but proceeded along the lines of the motion.

Commissioner Williams’ presentation was made in open session, following which the press and members of the public (myself included) left the Parliament, to allow for the in camera session. MP Chuck also left at this point.

(ACCESS COMMISSIONER WILLIAMS’ PRESENTATION HERE: Police Commissioner Williams – Presentation in Parliament Nov 11 2015)

JCF submission to Parliament photo

I question the necessity for the entire Q & A session to have been held in camera and hope that this doesn’t set a precedent. I think the better model is for in camera proceedings to be triggered by specific questions, rather than for an entire Q & A session to be closed because of the potential that sensitive questions may be asked.

I plan to do a separate blog about some of the information presented by Commissioner Williams.