Right Steps & Poui Trees


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Minister Chuck & the INDECOM Debate

PBCJ Sitting of House July 21 2020 - Minister ChuckIn Parliament on Tuesday (July 21, 2020), Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck opened the debate on his motion to amend the Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2010. In a presentation lasting less than ten minutes, he laid out the government’s position regarding the proposed amendments and the process to be followed to get there. No-one else spoke in the debate on Tuesday. Minister Chuck ended his statement saying that it was the intention that the debate should be concluded next week:

“Mr Speaker, I now ask for a suspension of the debate and hope that other Parliamentarians will see it appropriate to make their contributions next week when we hope to close the debate.”

I wonder who will speak next week and for how many minutes.

As Minister Chuck has indicated before, the Government is asking the Members of the House to support all the recommendations included in the 2015 report of the Joint Select Committee that reviewed the INDECOM Act, except the recommendation to give INDECOM the power to prosecute. JSC INDECOM Review power to prosecute

When Minister Chuck spoke about this recommendation on Tuesday,  he added “And I dare say, Mr Speaker, I was one of the strongest proponents of that view. ” The view that INDECOM needed the power to prosecute.

Minister Chuck’s change in position seems to be based primarily on the increased number of prosecutors at the Office of the DPP. He spoke generally about the increased numbers, and referred to an existing MOU between the Office of the DPP and INDECOM:

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that a MOU was arrived at in March 2018 between the ODPP and INDECOM whereby, among other things, two prosecutors were assigned specifically to liaise directly with and treat with INDECOM matters.  Indeed, if more prosecutors are needed to deal with INDECOM matters in a timely manner, I am assured by the DPP that one or more prosecutors can be so assigned.

Minister Chuck’s Opening statement, p. 2

What he did not do was to provide any data on how that MOU has functioned. There was no data, for example, on the number of files INDECOM has sent to the ODPP each year; no data on how long it has taken for the ODPP to make decisions on the files sent; no data on the causes of any delays; no data on what decisions have been made (without identifying the individual cases themselves, but whether decisions were made to prosecute, to send to coroner’s court or for disciplinary proceeding or other options).

Beyond the Minister’s assurances, what would Members of Parliament (and members of the public) rely on to assess how the ODPP has managed the INDECOM files to date and will be able to manage them in the future?

Although the Minister didn’t specifically refer to the Joint Select Committee recommendation that INDECOM should clearly have the power to arrest and charge, this is not being supported by the Government either. (See Section 20, p. 10 of the report.) And Minister Chuck didn’t give the reasoning for this in his presentation.

Mr Chuck listed a number of additional amendments to be included and set out the intended process if the motion passes:

These recommendations plus others in the Report will be introduced in a Bill to amend the INDECOM Act and drafting instructions will accordingly be provided to OPC at the close of this debate and after further consideration by Cabinet.  I hope that the proposed amended Bill will be tabled in Parliament during this fiscal year.

Minister Chuck’s Opening statement, p. 4

Next week is scheduled to be the last week before Parliament goes on its summer break. This debate is likely to be completed and the motion passed without much notice. And this will be a blow for police accountabilty measures in Jamaica. There will still be the opportunity to advocate for inclusion of these powers up until a new Bill is actually passed, although Minister Chuck has indicated the Government’s position.

INDECOM, under the leadership of its first Commissioner – Terrence Williams – has had a significant impact in its first ten years. I wonder what the next ten years will bring…

Related Documents

Motion Regarding Amendments to the Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2010 brought to the House on May 27, 2020, by Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck. (If I find a better copy of the motion, I will post it.)

Motion Regarding Amendments to Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2020 - Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck May 27 2020

Text of Minister Chuck’s Opening Statement in Debate on INDECOM Act Amendment Motion 

Minister Chuck's Opening Statement in INDECOM Act motion

MINISTER CHUCK’S OPENING PRESENTATION – INDECOM – Amendment to INDECOM Act – dated 17-7-2020 – delivered 22-7-2020

Report of Joint Select Committee Reviewing the INDECOM Act – Tabled in Parliament 2015

JFJ graphic

 

Recent post by Jamaicans for Justice on proposed amendments to the INDECOM Act

JFJ – Safeguard INDECOM’s Independence – Reform the INDECOM Act – 22-6-2020

PBCJ Recording of the Sitting of House of Representatives July 21, 2020 Minister Chuck’s statement begins at approximately 3:43:00 in the recording.

 

 

 

 


INDECOM: Selection of the New Commissioner?

Terrence Williams - Commissioner of INDECOM at press conferenceThe contract of the current Commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) comes to an end in a few days time. Commissioner Terrence Williams, INDECOM’s first commissioner, has provided the body with strong leadership in its first ten years of existence. There will be time to review his time in office, the course he has charted for the organization and the significant impact it has had since it came into being in 2010.

But in this short blog post, I want to raise the issue of the appointment of the next Commissioner of INDECOM. At this point, a few days before the current Commissioner leaves office, the public has no idea who the new Commissioner will be. We have no idea if the selection process has begun. If it has begun, we have no idea what stage it is at. In all likelihood, we will wake up one morning to the announcement that the Governor-General has appointed the new Commissioner and we will at that point be told the name of the person selected to lead this very important Commission of Parliament.

This is because the INDECOM Act follows the formula for appointment of a number of public posts both in the Constitution and in some legislation. In this case it is appointment by the Governor General after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition. The formula varies for different posts. But what is common to all is that the public isn’t privy to the process, but merely receives the news of the appointment when someone who is part of the process tells us.

The process for appointment of the Commissioner of INDECOM is set out in Section 3(2) of the INDECOM Act:

“The Commission shall consist of a Commissioner, who shall be appointed by the Governor-General by instrument under the Broad Seal, after consultation with the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, from persons of high integrity, who possess the qualifications to hold office as a Judge of the Supreme Court of Judicature of Jamaica.”

INDECOM Act selection of Commissioner

Is this an appropriate formula for a modern democracy? The issue has been raised before in regard to other posts. Perhaps it is time for this formula to be reviewed and replaced by more transparent processes. This may be harder to do where it appears in the Constitution, but not as hard when it appears in ordinary legislation.

We may indeed have the appointment of an excellent person for the post of the new Commissioner. But it shouldn’t come in the form of a surprise fait accompli. Not in the year 2020.

 

 


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Parliamentarians, A Joint Select Committee & INDECOM

In Parliament last week Tuesday (January 30, 2018), during the discussion about extending the period of Public Emergency in St James, Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Opposition Leader Peter Phillips both commented on the functioning of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).  Their comments fit into an ongoing narrative that paints INDECOM as not being “balanced” in its approach and acting in a way that demoralizes the members of the security forces it is mandated to investigate.MP Phillips - PBCJ - Parliament 30-1-18

Dr Phillips: I’d like to end by also offering our commendations to the security forces for, not only in this area in St James but generally, the rank and file for the most part and the officers for the most part have conducted themselves with commendable efficiency in very difficult circumstances and they are to be commended. And I think even as they go, not only there but in the other areas of the country, while we urge them to obey the law, I want to urge those who investigate them, including INDECOM, to be mindful of the circumstances in which they operate. If I can be blunt, if INDECOM has a problem with the members of the security forces, I don’t think they should disarm them in public in full view of the citizens. I think that that unnecessarily demoralizes the men and women who are urged to obey the law, but who operate in what is a very dangerous situation on the street. There is literally a war that has been declared on society and in that circumstances you cannot weaken those who serve in the face of those who attack them.

PM Holness - PBCJ - Parliament 30-1-18

In responding to Dr Phillips, PM Holness said:

You mentioned INDECOM. We take the view that there really needs to be balance in how INDECOM operates. I’ve decided not to go any further with my comments on INDECOM. I think this House, which created the institution, which still retains the power, at some point…I suspect it would have to be sooner than later…we will have to take some decisions…to ensure that that very important institution operates with balance.

(A video recording of the session in Parliament is available here. Dr Phillips’ comment begins at 1:11:59 & PM Holness’ comment begins at 1:37:00.)

The following day, INDECOM issued two press releases in response to the comments in Parliament. In the first, the Commission refuted Dr Phillips’ assertion:INDECOM press release Jan 31 2018 aINDECOM press release Jan 31 2018 b

In the second, INDECOM shared Commissioner Williams’ letter to Justice Minister Delroy Chuck, requesting an opportunity to be informed of the perceived problems and to respond:

INDECOM press release and letter 31-2-18 a

INDECOM letter to Minister of Justice 31-1-18

Dear Minister Chuck,

Re: Remarks in Parliament on INDECOM

Reference is made to the captioned.

On the 30th instant, remarks were made in Parliament that INDECOM needed “balance” in its work and that INDECOM’s investigators were disarming police officers in public spaces.

As a Commission of Parliament, INDECOM is obligated to make reports to Parliament on matters of concern. We do not know what claims advised the assertion that our work lacks balance and would appreciate an opportunity to be so advised and to respond. As misinformation must not be permitted to direct policy.

The remark about disarming of police officers ia an example of misinformation. This was raised by the Police Federation during the Joint Select Committee’s Review of the INDECOM Act. We were able to debunk this claim. The position remains that police officers are disarmed by their colleagues and this is done at the police station. A 2014 JCF Force Order published the agreed protocol between the JCF in this regard.

Given your statutory remit to serve as the liason between INDECOM and Parliament, INDECOM seeks your kind intervention in this matter to permit us to be aware of assertions being made and to answer them.

Yours sincerely,

INDEPENDENT COMMISSION OF INVESTIGATIONS

Terrence F Williams

Commissioner

 

This is not the first occasion on which PM Holness has spoken about INDECOM needing to be more “balanced” in its approach or for the need to review or make changes to the INDECOM Act. It is unfortunate and unhelpful, however, that the Prime Minister hasn’t been more specific in making clear exactly what he means by “balance/balanced” or what aspects of the Act he thinks need further review or need to be changed. His repeated references without specificity encourage speculation, limit INDECOM’s ability to respond and may have the effect of eroding confidence in the workings of the Commission.

Review of the INDECOM Act

Section 37 of the INDECOM Act, which came into effect in 2010, requires periodic reviews of the Act, the first to take place no later than three years after the Act came into effect.

INDECOM Act Section 37

In 2013, a Joint Select Committee (JSC) was established to review the Act; it began its examination on June 27, 2013, held 23 meetings, concluded its report in October 2015 and the report was tabled in Parliament in November 2015. JSC INDECOM Act Review report

A copy of the report is available here: Joint Select Committee Report on INDECOM Act. What has happened to the report since it was submitted to Parliament? Which of the JSC’s recommendations have been accepted or rejected? What amendments to the Act are to be tabled in Parliament? More than two years after the report was submitted, it would be reasonable for the public to have some official word via Parliament.

A September 29, 2016 Jamaica Information Service (JIS) release titled “Cabinet Looking at Report on INDECOM” included the following reference to a statement made by National Security Minister Robert Montague:JIS 29-9-16 Montague re INDECOM report - an excerpt

Last year there was a report in the media that Minister of Justice Delroy Chuck had indicated there had been some movement regarding Cabinet’s consideration of the JSC recommendations, but there has still not been any action in Parliament regarding the report and its recommendations.

And this is part of what makes the comments in Parliament last week by the Leader of the Opposition and the Prime Minister so remiss.  Parliament passed a law establishing INDECOM, a Commission of Parliament (2010). That law passed by Parliament required a review of the law not more than three years after passage. Parliament established a Joint Select Committee of both Houses to conduct that review (2013). That Committee of Parliament held meetings over two years and produced a report containing its recommendations. That report was tabled in Parliament (2015). More than two years later, there has been no further action in Parliament regarding that report and its recommendations (2018). Yet the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition found it appropriate to make the comments they did in Parliament.

The Prime Minister did say “I think this House, which created the institution, which still retains the power, at some point…I suspect it would have to be sooner than later…we will have to take some decisions….” Yes, I would suggest that Parliament – that Parliamentarians – take some action, make some decisions. The current situation really makes a mockery of Parliament’s own processes.

 

 

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No Protocols, No Body-Worn Cameras: INDECOM’s Comments

INDECOM press conference 27-9-17 - Terrence WilliamsThe Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) held a press conference yesterday to give information about its 2nd Quarterly Report for 2017, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, September 26, 2017. During the press conference, INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams gave some important information about the organization’s experience of the use of body cameras by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). This information answers some of the questions I raised in my blog post a couple of days ago and certainly doesn’t lessen concerns that I have had.

No Body-Worn Cameras Worn By Officers Involved In Any Shooting Events Under INDECOM Investigation

The 2nd Quarterly Report 2017 includes a section which gives an update on recommendations of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry that are relevant to INDECOM’s remit. One of these had to do with body-worn cameras:

INDECOM 2nd Quarterly Report 2017 - WKGNCOE body cameras

INDECOM 2nd Quarterly Report 2017, p.35

In speaking about this recommendation, Commissioner Williams said the following:

The other issue was body-worn cameras. The West Kingston Commission of Enquiry said that this should be issued to police officers and soldiers, that is these cameras, without undue delay. We understand that the United States Embassy has donated body-worn cameras to the police force, but we are still hearing reports of delays in widespread implementation, and technical and policy issues have been cited to explain the delay. And in none of the shooting events that we have under investigation, including planned operations, were any body-worn cameras worn by the officers involved.

(Transcribed from recording of INDECOM September 27, 2017 press conference)

Seven months ago the JCF announced that some policemen in a number of divisions would begin to wear body cameras; I think it was said to be four divisions. It is extremely disturbing to now learn that in none of the shooting incidents being investigated by INDECOM were the officers involved wearing body cameras. Not even in planned operations. The JCF needs to let the public know what policy has guided who wears the body cameras and what has been recorded on them, if not footage of ANY shooting events. Indeed, what analysis has been done of the body camera use over this period? Maybe we even need to ask if the body cameras are in fact being worn at all.

INDECOM Has No Knowledge of Body-Worn Camera Protocols For Use Inside or Outside Of Special Zones

During the press conference, I asked Commissioner Williams whether the JCF has yet shared its body-worn camera protocols with INDECOM and whether INDECOM has been consulted regarding the body-worn camera protocols and procedures required under the Zones of Special Operations Act. This was his response:

We know of no protocols for the zones or otherwise. On our visit to the Zone we observed no-one wearing any cameras. It still seems to be for the JCF a work in progress, as regards the institution of the body-worn cameras, although they have some of the devices. We are eager to see this instituted, because one thing that most people don’t realise, and I’ll say it, most of the police shootings that you have in Jamaica have no witnesses but the police. So most of them will have no resolution but the police version, which may be true or it may be false. The body-worn camera provides that…an assistance in that accountability. And we were arguing from day one that why not use the body-worn cameras on those planned operations. So that you know you are going into a confrontation-type situation, it’s a very good time to wear the camera. So that your version of events can be depicted in this way of real evidence. We’re not seeing that at all. And we’ve had no update on it.

(Transcribed from recording of INDECOM September 27, 2017 press conference)

It is completely unacceptable and counterproductive  that the independent Commission of Parliament mandated “to undertake investigations concerning actions by members of the Security Forces and other agents of the State that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of rights of persons” (Independent Commission of Investigations Act, 2010) has not been consulted regarding the protocols governing the use of body-worn cameras by the security forces. Neither in regard to the JCF’s protocols which should have been in place months ago nor for the protocols required by the more recent Zones of Special Operations Act. Body-worn cameras have been put forward as a tool to improve accountability and transparency in the operations of the security forces and to increase trust in these bodies. How can this be achieved in a situation in which INDECOM is left completely out of the loop? And if INDECOM has no knowledge of the protocols yet, at what point is it likely that the protocols will be shared with the public?

Inadequate protocols can undermine any benefit that might be gained by the use of body-worn cameras. How can we know if the protocols are adequate, if we don’t know what the protocols are?

It is imperative that INDECOM be immediately involved in the drafting of the body-worn camera protocols and procedures and that they be shared more broadly before they are finalised. The process to date does little to support the credibility of the use of body-worn cameras in Jamaica.

Note:INDECOM 2nd Quarterly Report 2017 cover

Normally I would have provided a link to a copy of the INDECOM Quarterly Report, but it hasn’t been posted online yet and I don’t yet have a soft copy. As soon as I can, I will post a link or a copy.

INDECOM 2nd Quarterly Report 2017

Related posts

Body-Worn Cameras: A Secret Transparency Tool?

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