INDECOM calls for end to code of silence in JCF

Senior staff reporter

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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HEAD of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Terrence Williams has signalled the agency's full support for the new Commissioner of Police Major General Antony Anderson.

“I wish the new commissioner well. I, and INDECOM, intend to support him in the continued professionalising of the force and to help to stamp out corruption to provide compliance with their own use of force policies,” Williams said at a press conference at INDECOM's offices on Dumfries Road in Kingston yesterday, where he and his team discussed the agency's fourth-quarter report for 2017.

At the same time, Williams and his deputy, Hamish Campbell, were resolute in their position that the leadership of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) needs to denounce the code of silence among the organisation's membership, or what is colloquially referred to as the “squaddie” behaviour.

The INDECOM commissioner argued that while all professionals tend to protect their fraternity: “The code of silence in the JCF is on steroids… It is a code of silence plus… The [police high] command needs to tell this to the members, 'You have no obligation to tell a lie to support your colleague in any kind of misconduct. In fact, your obligation is to always speak the truth'.

“The command needs to say that because they need to counteract what has been built up over [the] years — this code of silence,” he said.

Williams further argued against what he sees as a “false binary approach” to police use of force, which he said is assessed based on whether or not a member will be charged.

“And if nobody is charged, the use of force is alright, which is not so, [as] the use of force can very well be quite improper although no one is charged, and there might be lessons to be learnt from the incident although nobody is charged,” he said.

“The other binary that we use is [if] the person is convicted or not, and if the person is not convicted they return to service doing the same thing that they used to do before. In many police forces they would say no; although acquitted, this person cannot return to that kind of work. So it builds a culture where the use of force falls into this false binary, when the use of force should be a much more nuanced question regarding: 'Is this the way a professional police force should conduct itself?'” he emphasised.

INDECOM's deputy commissioner was equally strident in his view that the leadership of the JCF needs to make no bones about condemning the code of silence.

“The senior officers have sufficient command over subordinates to control the use of force, and we saw that for the three years: 2014, 2015 and 2016,” he said.

Campbell pointed to the ongoing enhanced security measures in St James, where there have been no reports of security force shootings to date.

“That is leadership and command by the JDF (Jamaica Defence Force), and the crime has been reduced… and that is about senior officers having control over subordinates and the use of firepower and being present at these scenes,” he asserted.

Security force fatal shootings in 2017 recorded a 51 per cent increase over 2016 and a 66 per cent increase over 2015. According to INDECOM, last year there were 160 fatal shootings by the JCF, one by the Department of Correctional Services, and seven by the Jamaica Defence Force. In 2016, fatal shootings for all three totalled 111, and 101 in 2015. The police accounted for 204 for those two years.




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