Right Steps & Poui Trees


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A New Commissioner. A New Force?

COP QualloLast year January the Police Service Commission (PSC) was in the process of “seeking to identify a suitably qualified candidate either from within or outside the Jamaica Constabulary Force to fill the post of Commissioner of Police as soon as possible.” Less than a year after the new Commissioner of Police was appointed, the PSC is again in that process, as Commissioner George Quallo is set to demit office this week.

In a blog post on January 3, 2017, Advertising for Police Commissioner & Other Public Posts, I shared the advertisement for Commissioner of Police placed in the newspapers on January 1 that year and raised some concerns about the advertising and selection process, concerns which I continue to have.

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.

As Commissioner Quallo leaves office and as the selection process for the new Commissioner takes place, the public has no specific idea of what qualifications and experience the PSC is looking for in a “suitably qualified candidate”, beyond “strong managerial experience”. The public has no idea how well the outgoing Commissioner fit the PSC’s criteria and will have no idea how well the new Commissioner selected fits those criteria, unless the PSC decides to be more forthcoming this time round.

As would be expected, there are discussions in the traditional and social media about what people would want to see in a new Commissioner. One thread of discussion is that the new Commissioner should be someone capable of leading a process of reform/change/transformation in the police force. As Professor Anthony Clayton said in a discussion on the Nationwide News programme Nationwide @ Five yesterday, “So we are not looking for a continuity candidate; we are looking for a change candidate.”

But the question arises: Change to what? It has long been known that there is a need for fundamental reform of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and over many years there have been reviews and reports giving recommendations for such reform. The 2008 Strategic Review of the JCF report detailed many such recommendations itself, and in its Appendix E provided a useful review of the recommendations of a number of previous reports. If we are expecting the new Commissioner of Police to lead reform of the JCF, it would be good if there were a clear, accepted, official outline of what that reform would look like and would entail.JCF Strategic Review Appendix E

JCF_2008 Strategic_Review_Appendices

Montague 23-1-18In Parliament last week (January 23, 2018), Minister of National Security Robert Montague gave an update on “a number of issues pertaining to National Security”; this was in the context of the State of Public Emergency declared for the parish of St James the previous week. In a section of his presentation titled Legislative changes, Minister Montague reiterated the Government’s intention to :replace the current Act governing the JCF:

Sir, we intend to table within 6 months a Police Service Act which will replace the
150 year old Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Act which will be subsequently
repealed. The goal is to break with the past and create a modern Police Service
befitting our times and to better protect the members and serve the public.

This is another important opportunity for reform of the JCF, but the proposed new legislation cannot simply be the old legislation subjected to some level of tinkering. It needs to be reflective of a fundamentally different approach to policing. It is also necessary that there is adequate time allotted for review of and consultation on the draft legislation by members of the public. If this is to be legislation creating a modern Police Service, then it must undergo such a process of consultation with the people the new Police Service is to serve.

Over decades, we have come time and again to the point of  stating that reform of the police force is a necessary part of being able to deal with the high level of violent crime that has long plagued Jamaica. Perhaps one day there will actually be the political and societal will to undertake the necessary reform.

 

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INDECOM Commissioner Addresses the Issue of INDECOM & Police Effectiveness

Terrence WilliamsLast night – January 11, 2018, in an address to the Kiwanis Club of Spanish Town, Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Terrence Williams spoke about the often repeated claim that the work of INDECOM has had a chilling effect on police morale and has reduced their ability to perform their crime reduction functions effectively. Variations of this claim have been made by a number of people and organizations, including the Prime Minister, members of the Cabinet, members of the Opposition when they formed the Government, members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), including representatives of the Police Federation, which represents the rank and file members of the Force.

Below is the text of Commissioner Williams’ speech, entitled “INDECOM and Police Effectiveness: A Statistical Analysis”, as well as a PDF copy – Jan 11 2018 – Kiwanis Club of Spanish Town – INDECOM & Police Effectiveness

          Address by Terrence Williams Commissioner, INDECOM
                           at the Kiwanis Club of Spanish Town
                                         January 11, 2018
     Title: INDECOM and Police Effectiveness: A Statistical Analysis

I am sure you have often heard the claim that INDECOM has reduced police effectiveness causing an increase in crime. Some even say that the first step to reduce crime is to end INDECOM as we know it. These claims are dismissed by many as unfounded and illogical, but the effort to convince by repetition continues relentlessly. Of course there are some who may argue that the police must have a “free hand” and advocate that our national problem will be resolved if the police can act free of regulation and oversight. Those who peddle these arguments are then faced with this question: “Are you saying that the police cannot be effective if they are to be accountable for their actions?”

This evening a different approach will be taken in a reply, based purely on objective
statistics. Has the advent of INDECOM been coincidental with an increase in murder?
INDECOM speech Table 1 p2
Recall that INDECOM started its full operations in April 2011. Table 1, shows a general decline in murders since 2011. The average annual rate for 2004 to 2010 is 1554 murders per year whilst from 2011 to 2017 it is 1226. Thus there were, on average, 300 less murder victims since the introduction of INDECOM. It is also useful to further contextualize these figures against the population of Jamaica and in so doing let us turn our attention to the murder rate per 100,000 persons for the period stated above. The average murders per 100,000 for the pre-INDECOM period was 57.90 compared to 45.86 per 100,000 persons during the INDECOM period.

Similarly, the JCF statistics also reveal that the number of police officers killed has
significantly declined since the inauguration of INDECOM. All murders are deplorable but the killing of a police officer is particularly so given the fact that we depend on these brave men and women to preserve our social order.

On these facts, the claims that INDECOM’s existence contributes to the rise in crime in Jamaica and that the police need a “free hand” to fight crime is not supported. The search for causes and solutions for our endemic crime problem must therefore be sought elsewhere.

If we are looking at reasons for our high murder rates, we should consider the period after the year 2000 with consistently more than 1000 per year; and note the conditions that continue to prevail namely, the failure to effectively address organized crime.

If we are seeking solutions we should further look at the post 2010 period when murders were reduced by almost 40%. Professor Anthony Clayton, continues to point out that “this significant reduction in such a short time was seen almost nowhere else in the world before” and that “Jamaica did not follow through with the measures necessary to solve the crime problem and so we have returned to where we started”. It is submitted that the needed “follow through” was to get to the root of organized criminal gangs and to fully institute community policing.

Nicaragua, can provide some examples of how to sustainably reduce crime. Nicaragua’s neighbours, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, all suffer from high per capita murder rates. Honduras and El Salvador are amongst the highest in the world at 86 and 70 murders per 100,000 respectively. In 2015, Nicaragua’s murder rate was 7 per 100, 000 persons. Remarkably, Nicaragua maintains this low murder rate although, there is free movement of people in the region and so criminals can easily cross borders to commit crimes; despite being poorer than its neighbours, and having the lowest ratio of police to the population.

Nicaragua engaged in significant police reform to root out corruption. The model of
policing is a preventative and proactive one rooted in the heart of the community. Strong intelligence networks are employed especially in areas where organized crime is prevalent. Nicaragua recognized that repressive policing only achieves short term results. Jamaica can certainly learn from the Nicaraguan proactive community based policing model, because it is inclusive and instills a sense of confidence in the police service, one supported by a strong accountable and professional policing framework.

Another argument too often heard is that the police are less responsive to criminal activities because their morale is adversely affected by INDECOM’s investigation and charges. However, since inception only a small percentage of investigations have ended in charges. Further in 2014, the year of the greatest number of charges laid by INDECOM, also saw the lowest number of murders (1005) for 11 years. Notably, as seen in Table 2, where murders and police fatal shootings are considered together, the general tendency of an increase in fatal shootings when murders increase, continued after INDECOM started operations.

INDECOM speech Table 2
Consider Table 2 again. You may note three things. First, that, for a generation, we have had high rates of police involved killings but that these killings have declined since INDECOM started its operations. Secondly, there was a 16.25% decline in murders between 2013 and 2014 and in the same year a reduction in police fatal shootings by 55%. Thirdly, that the consistent high rates of police involved killings seem to have had no lasting effect on the murder rate.

The Ministry of National Security’s 2008 JCF Strategic Review: A New Era in Policing in Jamaica found that the JCF had weak internal accountability and was hobbled by endemic unlawful cultures. It is unfortunate that this Review is not more often consulted. It was the product of an august panel assembled by the State towards finding ways to improve the JCF. The Review is freely available online. I invite you to read it. Please pay particular attention to the “corrupt practices that have become endemic” frankly outlined on page 26. In the face of such unlawfulness how could the JCF be effective?

The Review called for “concerted, long term and coordinated effort” by the JCF and its oversight bodies to tackle the malignant cultures in the police force. INDECOM is playing its part in this very effort, yet naysayers continue to claim that this endeavor is stymying the work of the police. The JCF’s cultures rendered it ineffective to control crime and instead contributed to crime. These cultures could not have taken root unless they benefitted a group of persons and that group remains loathe to see the change that will relieve them of such improper advantage.

A disciplined police force cannot operate contrary to the law and in a state where some of its members are in continuous disaffection. Resisting and scapegoating the oversight mechanisms will only delay the needed change and distract from the real causes of crime.

The advent of INDECOM and the overall reform of the JCF to promote accountability,
ought to result in a sustainable reduction in crime. But, a resistant JCF retards such
improvement.

There is nothing to suggest that the work of INDECOM has caused an increase in crime. An accountable police force is an effective police force.

Related Document

In his presentation, Commissioner Williams referred to the 2008 JCF Strategic Review. For convenience, here are copies of that document and its appendices:

JCF Strategic Review cover

jcf_strategic_review_2008

JCF Strategic Review Appendices

jcf_strategic_review_appendices

 

 

 

 


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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.