Right Steps & Poui Trees


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The JCF & Accountability: A Policeman Speaks Out & 3 Opportunities For Change

NNN Hidden Agenda on SoundCloud March 2018Listen to Nationwide News Network’s special report “Hidden Culture”. It is narrated by Nationwide’s Marjorie Gordon and centres on an interview with a serving member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). It is a chilling account of the ways in which extrajudicial killings are carried out and covered up by members of the police force, with the involvement of gazetted ranks. The policeman’s voice has been distorted to protect his identity. It was first broadcast on March 21, 2018, was rebroadcast a number of times that week and is now posted on SoundCloud.

Many of the things that he spoke about are things that have been reported on before, things that I have heard of over many years. The difference here is that a serving policeman is giving a personal account in an interview being broadcast on radio.

“You’re a constable going to work and you realise that your name is set to go on an operation to be conducted 3 o’clock in the morning. So, I go on the operation. When I go on the operation with several other officers, we are briefed by the officer in charge of that operation, who is sometimes a Deputy Superintendent, sometimes an Insepector, sometimes even a Superintendent himself. And what we are told to do, the instructions that we are given on that operation, kill!…We’re going fah a particular person and wi not going to lock him up. There were times when members would ask the question, “So Supa, when we hold So-and-So, what di position? Jail or morgue?” And we are told, “Mi nuh inna nuh jail business.”…As a young constable on an operation like that, what am I to do? What am I to do? Can I stand in the crowd of twenty, thirty police officers and say I’m not going? I can’t do that. So I go on the operation, as a part of this operation, and when I see my colleagues fire shots in an innocent man….I’ve been on operations where I myself have fired. It does something to you. It did something to me and it has…it is doing something to others out there. I have a lot of colleagues who are lost in the culture. I realise…I have realised and I have come to the conclusion, most of us, we have lost ourselves because of how we are taught in the streets when we leave training school.” (Transcribed from Nationwide News Network’s ‘Hidden Culture’)

It has long been known that the problem is not simply one of individual rogue police, but that there is a culture within Jamaica’s police force that supports the use of extrajudicial killings as a crime fighting method. And there are those outside the JCF, across the society, who believe this also and would want us as a people to turn a blind eye and allow the police to do weh dem haffi do.

If we want to change this culture, to rid the JCF of this approach, to have a police service that is unequivocally committed to lawful, professional, accountable and rights-centred policing, then we have to seize opportunities for change. At the moment, three such opportunities present themselves.

  • A New Commissioner of Police

Major General Antony Anderson - JISA new Commissioner of Police was sworn in on Monday, March 19, 2018 – Major General Antony Anderson. He is a former head of the Army and is very familiar with the national security situation in Jamaica. One person alone cannot change the culture within and reform the JCF. A Commissioner can, however, provide the type of leadership that may facilitate such change. Whether Commissioner Anderson will (or will be able to) achieve the necessary change remains to be seen, but his appointment opens up an opportunity.

(An associated issue that does need to be considered is how much reliance on the military for/in policing is a good thing. For another blog post perhaps.)

On March 22, 2018, the day after the first broadcast of Nationwide’s special report, the JCF issued a statement in response, which said that

“The purported actions, which are being recounted by an alleged lawman, are categorically condemned by the High Command as they do not align with the principles and standards of a modern Police Force.

The JCF has implemented a series of measures to reinforce acceptable standards of behaviour by its members, particularly with respect to use of force, human rights and engagement with the public.”

It pointed to the JCF’s Early Intervention System, described as “a proactive approach to identifying members who may display tendencies of abnormal behaviour and thereby allowing for timely intervention.” It also mentioned the oversight roles of the  Independent Commission of Investigation (INDECOM), the Inspectorate of Constabulary  (IOC) and the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency (MOCA). It promised  “to further seek to create a mechanism that will allow persons who have information in these matters to offer same in confidence and without fear.”

Perhaps I have heard too many such statements over the years to find this reassuring. What actions will follow?

  • Strengthen Rather Than Weaken INDECOM

INDECOM logo 2The two Court of Appeal judgments which were handed down on Friday, March 16, 2018, raise once again the need for the Parliament to revisit the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act. A Joint Select Committee (JSC) of Parliament held meetings from 2013 – 2015 and carried out the first review of the INDECOM Act, as required by the Act itself. The Committee produced a report with its recommendations, which was tabled in Parliament in November 2015. (Click here for a copy of the Joint Select Committee Report on INDECOM Act.) No action has been taken in Parliament regarding this report or its recommendations. (See my blog post in February –  Parliamentarians, A Joint Select Committee & INDECOM.)

On March 21, 2018, human rights NGO Jamaicans for Justice issued a press release calling for Parliament to make amendments to the INDECOM Act:JFJ press release 21-3-18JFJ press release 21-3-18 bJFJ press release 21-3-18 cJFJ press release 21-3-18 dJFJ press release 21-3-18 e

Both Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Justice Minister Delroy Chuck have said that a Parliamentary Committee is to be established to review the INDECOM Act…again. At this point there is no clear indication of the timeline for the establishment of the Committee, how long it is likely to meet or when it will produce and table its report. It also isn’t clear whether it will be asked to review the Act in its entirety or only specific aspects of the Act, those affected by the Court of Appeal judgments, for example. It isn’t clear what weight, if any, will be given to the review done by the 2013 – 2015 JSC or if the public will have the opportunity to make submissions to the new Committee. And after the Committee tables its report, what action will the Parliament take in regard to its recommendations? What if there is a change of government after the report is tabled? Will that delay Parliament taking any action on the Committee’s recommendations, as seems to have been the case with the 2013 – 2015 Committee’s recommendations?

The news now is that INDECOM is seeking leave to appeal to the Privy Council for clarification on important issues in the case, including constitutional issues. It is also reported that Minister Chuck thinks that INDECOM shouldn’t seek to appeal, but should rather wait to see what Parliament decides to do.

So we continue to wait…to see what Parliament will do and when and whether it will use this opportunity to strengthen or weaken the important role INDECOM plays regarding accountability for the police force.

  • The Police Service Act to Replace the Constabulary Force Act

The Jamaican public first learned of the Government’s plans to replace the Constabulary Force Act with a Police Service Act via a March 2017 Government of Jamaica Letter of Intent to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

JA letter of intent to IMF March 2017“Implement a full legislative review that leads to (i) completion of a draft new Police Service Act to replace the Jamaica Constabulary Force
Act, that supports the modernization and transformation of the
Jamaica Constabulary Force into a modern intelligence-led police
service that ensures Citizen Security, with stronger systems of
administration, management and internal discipline….” (p 21)

The October 2017 Letter of Intent indicated that the measure was “[o]n track for completion by target date”, the target bate being October 2017 (IMF – Jamaica Second Review Under the Stand-By Arrangement Etc October 2017 p 43).

In the Throne Speech delivered by the Governor General in Parliament on February 15, 2018, this new Police Service Act is included as one of the legislative actions to be taken during the 2018 – 2019 legislative year.

Throne speech 2018 - Police Service Act

Throne Speech 2018, p 7

This proposed new legislation is obviously an important opportunity for reform of the police force. True reform – the modernisation and transformation being referred to – cannot be achieved by tinkering around the edges of the current legislation or by focusing primarily on increasing the powers of the police. It cannot be accomplished without full and genuine consultation with the people the police service is intended to serve. The legislation cannot be rushed through Parliament without allowing adequate time and opportunity for those who wish to make submissions about the draft legislation to do so. Indeed, it would be best if there were also consultation on the actual draft legislation before it was tabled in Parliament. I know that new legislation is only one part of what needs to be done, but we cannot afford to miss this opportunity for change.

How these three opportunities are handled will have an impact on many aspects of the workings of the police force and whether we move nearer to or further from achieving a professional and accountable police service. One marker in that process – nearer to or further from – will be the impact on that hidden culture of extrajudicial killings.

Relevant documents – Court of Appeal Judgments

Court of Appeal judgment - FederationThe Police Federation, Merrick Watson (Chairman of the Police Officers Association), The Special Constabulary Force Association and Delroy Davis (President of the United District Constables Association) v The Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations and the Attorney General of Jamaica [2018] JMCA Civ. 10

Court of Appeal judgment - DiahAlbert Diah v Regina [2018] JMCA Crim 14

 

 

(I am a member and a spokesperson for Jamaicans for Justice. My blog posts are all done in my personal capacity, however.)

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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.

Related Post

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

 

 

 


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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.