Columns

The INDECOM debacle

JASON MCKAY

Sunday, March 18, 2018

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I have tried from a journalistic standpoint to avoid an analysis of the INDECOM crisis because I felt in many ways it came down to people bashing, which I think is counterproductive.

Often persons are in jobs and become defined by the job they do rather than the person they are. This does not seem to be a practical methodology to judge a person, and doing so in the Jamaican INDECOM crisis is the equivalent of blaming a security guard at a concentration camp who is carrying out the horrible job his tyrannical government has instructed him to do.

I say this to say that blaming the investigators or attorneys who work at INDECOM is about as practical as blaming the guard at the concentration camp for the gassing of innocent persons. In both cases the crisis was created by legislation. The INDECOM crisis is caused by the INDECOM Act, not by the INDECOM staff.

This legislation is so wrong that I would need two articles and very tolerant editors to allow me to do a thorough post-mortem of it. But let me start at the beginning . . . its timing.

The INDECOM Act was created in 2010, one year after 1,690 primarily poor people were murdered — a record in a country where murder is as common as limes.

The response to 1,690 murders of poor people was to create an Act to ensure that the army of men and women who were to fight the force that killed 1,690 people was to be super regulated.

This is an obvious indication of how little the lives of poor people are viewed and how deeply divided we are as a society.

Let's be frank. If they had killed 1,690 members of the middle or upper class, would we have created legislation to ensure the safety of the offenders?

I imagine we would have introduced legislation that allowed for the wholesale detention of any suspect in any violent crime.

Let's go to what the Act dictates. Firstly, it takes away the right of silence of the suspect. This may be shrouded in legal wrangling's to say that you are a witness, not a suspect at the time that you are forced to give a statement.

However, there is no stop gap to insure that once you have given a statement which you are forced to give, that you can no longer become a suspect.

There was a reason why our legal system gave you the right to remain silent. It is because we come out of a society that has suffered from centuries of abuse and, as a result, we put a high price on the ability of a citizen not to be forced, bullied or legally manhandled into incriminating themselves.

Let's now look on the bypassing of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which hopefully this recent ruling by the Court of Appeal will end.

The Act prior to the 16th of March allowed INDECOM to rule on a police officer without the input of the Office of the DPP. This recent ruling is important because it is a safeguard against frivolous prosecution and gang control.

Why I say gang control is because all a Don has to do is tell one of his minions to say he saw what he didn't see and this creates trial issues that will likely result in an officer being charged, suspended, deprived of pay, possibly remanded and subject to unbelievably high legal costs.

Needless to say this makes the persons who are fighting for all of our safety night after night a unique target to an arm of Government that seems to grade itself on the amount of police it charges rather than the amount of investigations that are independently completed.

This Act also has the unique power to order on power of prosecution the cooperation of regular Jamaican citizens to participate in the investigation and prosecution of a police officer who is involved in an incident. Yes, you read right, your adult child can be forced to participate in this process against a police officer whether or not he or she wants to.

It doesn't seem that great now, does it, when it is your children who have a boot on their neck?

The right to investigate, arrest and prosecute a police officer is also included in this Act.

Now who does that?

How can one body have the right to do all three?

It begs the question, was the hangman's job not available too?

Now let's look at funding.

There is no restriction within the legislation which created this body that prohibits the acceptance of funding from private or international bodies or groups. Therefore this organisation is allowed to accept money from international human rights groups who are without question critics of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Well, who pays the piper picks the tune. If you are allowed to accept financing from international human rights groups, what happens when you don't give them the result they want? What is their price in blood? Exactly how many police officers must be charged per hundred thousand US dollars of aid?

It could really go on and on, but I believe the point is clear. The legislation was flawed, but it is less flawed than it was before the ruling on March 16, 2018.

This period in our history is one we will revisit and be ashamed of — the part we as citizens played in it. After all, we elected the Parliament that committed this atrocity.

This is precisely what happens when legislation is passed quickly and with a view of throwing bones to a rabid dog.

The INDECOM Act was former Prime Minister Bruce Golding's gesture of making peace with the human rights lobbyists because of the Tivoli operation and its loss of lives. Any knee-jerk reaction to any problem results in catastrophe, and the bigger the knee the bigger the catastrophe.

It is one thing when a parish council makes a quick decision over a squatting issue, but it's a totally different thing when Parliament with the big knees they have allow the jerk of those knees to be the decisions we have to live with.

Acceptance of fault is not a natural human characteristic. Even now the Japanese have not apologised for the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

The INDECOM Act came about because of the rise in crime, gang violence and the combat that occurred with our armed forces of our nation whilst fighting them. The cause of this act falls on several groups that aided gangs, which include the 1970s politicians who created gangs, the 1980s politicians who nurtured them and the 1990s politicians who made them rich through Government contracts.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force played its part in the creation of this Act also by failing to effectively create a public relations and marketing campaign that shows the fallen criminals and their resumès instead of silently sitting by while human rights groups marketed combative gunmen as innocent victims.

Those same human rights groups washed selective parts of our laundry in the international community, which resulted in economic consequences for our nation while furthering their careers.

All those noted played a part in what has resulted in a purge of the men and women who put their lives on the line everyday while the rest of society lie in their beds.

I will end this article as I started it by saying that we should stop blaming the innocent employees of INDECOM and lay the blame on the men and women who sat in Parliament and enacted a piece of legislation that would not only destroy our protectors, but result in the growth of gangs which would invariably lead to the loss of life of more gang members through internal conflict than the police would have harmed in a century.

 

Jason McKay is a criminologist. Feedback: jasonamckay@gmail.com.

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