Whither the re­view of Tivoli op­er­a­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY -

THE PO­LICE, to their credit, were far faster than the Govern­ment in of­fer­ing spe­cific re­sponses to the find­ings of the Sim­mons com­mis­sion of en­quiry into the Tivoli Gar­dens op­er­a­tion, as well as agree­ing to an ad­min­is­tra­tive re­view into the con­duct of some of their of­fi­cers.

In­deed, it was only a fort­night ago the ad­min­is­tra­tion an­nounced the for­ma­tion of a Cab­i­net sub­com­mit­tee, chaired by the jus­tice min­is­ter, Del­roy Chuck, to re­view the re­port and its find­ings and to sug­gest how the Govern­ment should pro­ceed. Mr Chuck, how­ever, warned Ja­maicans not to ex­pect im­me­di­ate ac­tion on all the com­mis­sion pro­posed that the Govern­ment should do, given the far-reach­ing na­ture of some of the rec­om­men­da­tions.

“The com­mit­tee is cur­rently look­ing at struc­tures and the man­age­ment of the im­ple­men­ta­tion process, be­cause while some of the rec­om­men­da­tions are short-term, such as the apol­ogy that it is to be made to the res­i­dents of West Kingston, some rec­om­men­da­tions will re­quire ex­ten­sive ad­min­is­tra­tive changes and leg­isla­tive in­ter­ven­tions that will be im­ple­mented over a medium- to long-term pe­riod,” Mr Chuck said.

That sounds rea­son­able. But for ac­cep­tance and trust, it ought to be un­der­pinned by trans­parency – that is, pe­ri­odic re­port­ing by the au­thor­i­ties on what is be­ing done, and, im­por­tantly, en­gage­ment of the so­ci­ety on the fun­da­men­tal is­sues, such as the dis­man­tling of po­lit­i­cal gar­risons. For, too often, com­mit­tees like Mr Chuck’s, if they ac­tu­ally ex­ist, are mech­a­nisms through which sop is of­fered to the pub­lic, while lit­tle of sub­stance is done.

And here is where the po­lice are in dan­ger of los­ing the plot.

In the May 2010 op­er­a­tion to cap­ture Christo­pher Coke, the gang­ster and po­lit­i­cally aligned com­mu­nity don, at least 69 ‘civil­ians’ died, many, the en­quir­ers sus­pect, vic­tims of ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings, mainly by the po­lice’s Mo­bile Re­serve unit.

While they made no crim­i­nal claims against any­one spe­cific, the com­mis­sion­ers ques­tioned the com­pe­tence and con­duct of five po­lice of­fi­cers – in­clud­ing two who were sub­se­quently pro­moted to very se­nior ranks – and ac­cused them of dere­lic­tion of duty. The lot, they rec­om­mended, should never again be in­volved in in­ter­nal se­cu­rity op­er­a­tions.

They, ad­di­tion­ally, rec­om­mended an ad­min­is­tra­tive re­view of the op­er­a­tion. The Po­lice High Com­mand agreed.

It an­nounced that a six-mem­ber panel would be es­tab­lished, con­sti­tuted of three se­nior po­lice of­fi­cers; one mem­ber each from the Po­lice Ser­vice Com­mis­sion (PSC) and the Po­lice Civil­ian Over­sight Au­thor­ity (PCOA); with the sixth mem­ber be­ing some­one cho­sen by the PSC and the PCOA.

Un­for­tu­nately, in the more than three months since that June 30 an­nounce­ment, the po­lice have not dis­closed if that group was ac­tu­ally em­pan­elled; who its mem­bers are; the specifics of its terms of ref­er­ence; if it has be­gun its work; and when it will re­port its find­ings. The pub­lic has been kept in the dark.

Such lack of trans­parency, of course, breeds sus­pi­cion, es­pe­cially at a time when the con­stab­u­lary, un­for­tu­nately, suf­fers from a deficit of trust and needs the pub­lic’s sup­port to un­der­take its dif­fi­cult and often very dan­ger­ous job.

As the com­mis­sion­ers said with re­spect to con­duct­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tive re­view, it is not too late for the po­lice to up­date the pub­lic about the re­view com­mit­tee’s com­po­si­tion and pro­ce­dures. The nam­ing of the Cab­i­net sub­com­mit­tee still pro­vides an op­por­tu­nity to do so.

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