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”.
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:The members of the Committee were:
The findings of the Committee were as follows:
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.
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:
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?
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”.
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.
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.
The 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.