Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Body-Worn Cameras: A Secret Transparency Tool?

I remain concerned that to date the public has no idea what protocols govern the use of body-worn cameras  by police or soldiers in Jamaica, although these cameras are now being used by the police here. Body-worn cameras are widely regarded as a tool that may enhance accountability and transparency in policing, bringing an additional source of information about interactions between the police and the public. Inadequate protocols governing their use can, however, completely undermine any benefit to be derived from the wearing of such cameras. How can the Jamaican public know if the protocols governing use of body-worn cameras here are adequate, if we don’t know what those protocols are?

Zones of Special Operations (ZOSO) Act & Body-Worn Cameras

The recently passed Law Reform (Zones of Special Operations)(Special Security and Community Development Measures) Act, 2017 makes provision for the wearing of body-worn cameras by members of the Joint Forces – police and soldiers – within declared special zones.

Section 19(1) of the Act says:Zones of Special Operations Section 19 1

Section 19(2) of the Act requires the establishment of protocols and procedures for the use of the cameras, setting out some of the matters that may be dealt with in the protocols and procedures.Zones of Special Operations Act Section 19 2 AZones of Special Operations Act Section 19 2 B

 

Prime Minister Holness’ Commitment

Last week I was able to put a question about the current status of these required protocols to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, via a tweet to Cliff Hughes during his  Online programme on Nationwide News Network. The Prime Minister was the guest on the weekly Ask The OPM segment of Hughes’ programme and was fielding questions by phone & social media. I asked:SG tweet 19-9-17 Hughes PM body cameras

Hughes asked the questions and PM Holness answered:

“The protocols are established but we have a resource challenge. So the police do have body cameras. We have still…we have identified a supplier and we need to outfit the military with cameras and that is being done. As I said earlier, this is a proof of concept and much learning is taking place. So all the protocols that were established will…we will review them to see how they actually work on the ground, but by the time the second zone is around, we should have final protocols. We’ll share them with the public; there is nothing secret about the ZOSO and we should be able to outfit all key personnel… operational personnel with body cameras.” (Transcribed from recording, Cliff Hughes Online, Nationwide News Network, September 19, 2017)

I am glad for the Prime Minister’s commitments that protocols have been established, that they will be finalised before a second zone is declared and that they will be made public. He didn’t say, however, whether the protocols have been shared with INDECOM (the Independent Commission of Investigations) and, at this point, we have no clear timelines for the things committed.

 

Police and body-worn cameras prior to ZOSO

The wearing of body-worn cameras by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) didn’t begin with the passage of the ZOSO Act or the declaration of the first Zone. Body-worn cameras have been recommended and discussed for many years in various quarters, including the government, civil society, international bodies and the JCF itself. In recent years, steps were taken to start the process within the JCF.

In 2014, then Minister of National Security Peter Bunting announced that select police units would begin to wear body cameras and “noted that a protocol [would] be established, making it mandatory for the officers to engage the cameras once they [were] going on an operation.”

 

In August 2016,  there was an official launch of the body-worn camera project at the Office of the Commissioner of Police. Then Commissioner Carl Williams said: “This is a significant step on the road to improving our human rights record and ultimately, public trust. As we accept these body-worn cameras, I cannot help but underscore the remarkable stimulus that they provide for Police reform, and conformity by suspects. These devices will provide greater transparency, build public trust and provide evidence against false accusations.” Minister of National Security Robert Montague “stated that these cameras [would] aid in significantly improving the trust between members of the Force and the public.”

In February this year, the JCF announced that some police had actually started wearing the provided body cameras.

At this point, INDECOM indicated its concern “that the JCF [had] not yet advised INDECOM as to the proposed procedures and protocols that [would] govern the use of the equipment, collection and storage of data, and subsequent viewing of the footage.” (INDECOM Press Release 21-2-17) In a discussion on Nationwide News Network the following morning, Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay, head of the Constabulary Communications Unit, responded to INDECOM’s concerns saying that “We have a protocol that guides the operation of these cameras internally; it is not something that we would be discussing externally.” It is astounding that the JCF would consider it appropriate not to share the protocols governing the operation of body cameras with the independent oversight body mandated to investigate fatal shootings and allegations of abuse by the police. At the time of INDECOM’s May 26, 2017 press conference, they had still not seen the JCF’s protocols.

Given the approach of the JCF regarding INDECOM, it is hardly surprising that the JCF’s protocols haven’t been made public.

Protocols And Procedures

I have wondered whether the protocols and procedures governing the use of body-worn cameras within the declared special Zones would differ from those governing their use outside of the Zones. Indeed, I do not think that it is satisfactory that the drafting of such protocols should be left to the Heads of the Army and Police Force, with no requirement for consultation with any other body, INDECOM or the Office of the Public Defender, for example.

In a Twitter thread about body-worn cameras (yes, I do tweet a lot), I asked the following question and got a reply from Commissioner of Police Quallo:SG tweet 8-9-17 body camera protocols

COP Quallo tweet 10-9-17 body cameras protocols(*SOP = Standard Operation Procedure)

Finally, while the assurances of PM Holness are welcome, until the protocols are actually made public, they may be a comfort to a fool.

  • We do not know if the cameras already in use – since the declaration of the first Zone, since earlier this year (or before?) – have captured any footage relevant to any fatal shooting by the police or any alleged instance of abuse.
  • We do not know when cameras should be turned on or off and what sanctions there are for not complying with this.
  • We do not know if footage has been safely stored for the record or has been destroyed intentionally or inadvertently.
  • We do not know how long video is stored for or  who has access to such footage and under what circumstances? INDECOM? The police or soldiers involved in an incident? Lawyers – either for an accused person or the family of someone killed by the police or an involved policeman? Journalists? The public?
  • We know nothing about what has governed the use of the body-worn cameras to date and any video footage that has already been recorded.
  • Etc…

If the public doesn’t know what the protocols and procedures are, how can we know if they are adequate? And if we don’t know whether the protocols and procedures are adequate, how can the use of body cameras build trust?

Body-worn cameras can’t be a secret tool of transparency and accountability.

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

 

 

 

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JCF Administrative Review Committee Clears JCF…Of Pretty Much Everything

Two days ago (August 8, 2017) Commissioner of Police George Quallo released the “Report of Administrative Review Committee Appointed to Review Conduct of JCF Named Officers During the 2010 West Kingston Operation and Related Matters”.

 

(Click for JCF West Kingston Administrative Review Committee Report – June 2017)

Since the release, there has been increasing discussion of the report, with expressions of criticism and concern. I have been among those expressing concerns as, having read the report, I believe it raises questions of process, substance and tone. I think that beyond the report itself, there is also the consideration of its wider impact on issues of post-Commission of Enquiry processes and of police accountability.

The Committee started its review on February 28, 2017 and concluded on June 19, 2017, having had eleven sittings. Its Terms of Reference (TOR) were as follows:JCF Administrative Review Committee TORThe members of the Committee were:JCF Admin Review Comm members

The findings of the Committee were as follows:

TOR 1

1a) 3.11 The Committee, having reviewed the Operations Plan, agreed that the Command Structure was appropriate for the task.

1b) 4.8 Having reviewed the Operations Plan, reports and statements of the JCF officers vital to the Terms of Reference, the Committee agreed that the Command Protocol was adequate.

1c & 1d) 5.10 Upon a thorough review of the conduct of the operation, the Committee agreed unanimously, that the span of control was clear and the span of command effective.

1e) 6.18 Despite the absence of the CIB participation and the delays occasioned by the prevailing circumstances, the Committee agreed that effective and adequate investigations were carried out in instances where deadly force was used.

6.19 The Committee finds that there was a system to ensure effective and adequate
investigations in the event of the resort to use of force by members of the JCF.

6.20 The Committee finds that the system was not followed according to the plan. However, the BSI rose to the occasion.

TOR 2

7.63 Upon a complete and thorough examination of the evidence, including, the Operation Plan, various reports, transcripts and statements; and for the reasons stated above, no basis could be found by the Committee, upon which any of the Named Officers should be cited for misconduct and/or dereliction of duty.

In the final account, the Committee found that the JCF, its systems, performance and members were “appropriate”, “adequate”, “clear”, “effective”, “effective”, “adequate”, “effective”, “adequate”, “rose to the occasion”, without basis to “be cited for misconduct and/or dereliction of duty”. The report and its findings give little indication of the kind of self-reflection that would be valuable to the police force following the events of 2010 and the report and recommendations of the Commission of Enquiry.  There is a sense of the-JCF-did-nothing-wrong-time-to-move-on.

As required by TOR 3, recommendations were given:JCF Admin Review Comm recommendations 1JCF Admin Review Comm recommendations 2

I have some questions about the process of the Administrative Review, including the following:

– In its June 30, 2016 press release responding to the Commission of Enquiry report, the JCF committed to establishing an Independent Administrative Review Panel which would be composed of  “one Deputy Commissioner of Police, the head of the Inspectorate of the Constabulary (IOC), one member of the Police Service Commission (PSC), one member of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA), and one independent person, preferably an attorney at law, to be selected by the PSC and PCOA.” Why was the proposed composition for the Panel not eventually followed?

– What were the reasons that resulted in the review taking eight months to begin?

– The Committee made an initial decision not to require any of the 5 named officers to appear before it and even when one member of the Committee made a formal request for two of the officers to appear, the majority decision was not to require this. What was the reasoning behind not making use of the presence of the officers to give additional clarity during the review process?JCF Admin Review Comm methodology

There are points at which the Committee’s tone seems to be defensive and dismissive in a manner that is not appropriate or useful. One such instance of this is in a section entitled “Other Evidence”.JCF Admin Review Comm - other evidence

The assertion in 7.44 that the Commission didn’t seem to be concerned with the dangerous nature of the operation and the heavy gunfire faced by officers on the ground is hard to understand if one watched the proceedings of the Enquiry or if one has read the Commission’s report. Chapter 4, for example, is squarely focused on this matter, and its contents and findings contradict this assertion in the Administrative Review Report.WKGN COE report Ch 4 pic

The assertion in 7.44 also seems to be dismissive of the concern with collection of bodies shown by the Commission. Scores of people died during the May 2010 operation, 69 according to the Commission’s findings. This was one of the most grave outcomes of the operation. It was absolutely necessary that the Commission devote attention to uncovering information that could assist in establishing the circumstances in which these people died. The collection of bodies was not something detached from this process, as the time, location and manner of such collection could contribute valuable information.

AHHThe Office of the Public Defender has been involved from the start in the process of seeking the truth about what happened in the May 2010 operation. It is not surprising that the current Public Defender, Arlene Harrison Henry, has issued a statement about the just released JCF report. In the statement, she calls for the withdrawal of the Administrative Review Committee report and she has indicated that her Office has written to the Attorney General for an opinion on the way forward. (Click for Office of the Public Defender – Press Release re JCF Administrative Review 2017)

There is more to be said and I will deal in subsequent posts with additional aspects of the Review report and its implications.

 

Related Post

When Will The Public See The JCF Administrative Review Report, Commissioner Quallo?


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When Will The Public See The JCF Administrative Review Report, Commissioner Quallo?

Last Friday, July 28, 2017, the High Command of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) released the following statement indicating that it has completed an Administrative Review into the May 2010 operation in Western Kingston.JCF release re admin reviews - 28-7-17 aJCF release re admin reviews - 28-7-17 b

Jul.28l.17 – High Command responds to Editorial

The release referred to a Gleaner editorial (actually published on July 24, 2017), which questioned the lack of a public update regarding the JCF’s promised actions in response to the recommendations of the Western Kingston Commission of Enquiry.

The Commission’s report was tabled in Parliament on June 15, 2016, and two weeks later, on June 30, 2016, the JCF issued a press release giving its response to the recommendations made in the Commission’s report. It indicated its position regarding a number of the recommendations –  15.17, 15.18, 15.20, 15.21, 15.22, 15.27, 15.28, 15.30, 15.31 – 15.33, 15.34, 15.35 – saying what actions it intended to take in response.  I do wonder why it took 8 months more (according to last Friday’s press release) for the promised review to begin.

I hope that Commissioner Quallo will make the report public sooner rather than later; it is reportedly now being “shared with the various oversight bodies for the JCF.” Until then, the public will not be able to assess the scope and adequacy of the review or its recommendations. This public accounting is an essential part of the post-Enquiry process.

Twitter Thread

Below is a series of tweets that I made on June 30, 2017, highlighting some issues that ought to be dealt with in the JCF review report.

SG tweet 30-6-17 1SG tweet 30-6-17 2SG tweet 30-6-17 3SG tweet 30-6-17 4SG tweet 30-6-17 5SG tweet 30-6-17 6SG tweet 30-6-17 7SG tweet 30-6-17 8SG tweet 30-6-17 9SG tweet 30-6-17 10SG tweet 30-6-17 11SG tweet 30-6-17 12SG tweet 30-6-17 13SG tweet 30-6-17 14SG tweet 30-6-17 15SG tweet 30-6-17 16SG tweet 30-6-17 17

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