WEST KINGSTON RE­PORT COM­MIS­SION OF EN­QUIRY

Jamaica Gleaner - - NEWS - Jo­van John­son Staff Re­porter jo­van.john­son@glean­erjm.com

EARLY INTO the job, for­mer Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Rear Ad­mi­ral Hard­ley Lewin said he faced the same back­lash the In­de­pen­dent Com­mis­sion of In­ves­ti­ga­tions (INDECOM) is get­ting, namely, that its push to cut po­lice fa­tal shoot­ings is de­mor­al­is­ing mem­bers of the Ja­maica Con­stab­u­lary Force (JCF).

“The Tues­day – day two on the job – I asked for a list of all po­lice of­fi­cers who had been in­volved in five or more fa­tal shoot­ings in the past two years – not whether they fired or not [but] whether they were there as part of the team,” Lewin told a Gleaner Edi­tors’ Fo­rum on Tues­day. The fo­rum was held to ex­am­ine the rec­om­men­da­tions of the West Kingston Com­mis­sion of En­quiry.

“I got a list of about 22 of­fi­cers, in­clud­ing a su­per­in­ten­dent and a deputy su­per­in­ten­dent – two gazetted of­fi­cers. I got that by the Friday. I said, ‘I want all of them at my of­fice the fol­low­ing week Thurs­day’. I dealt with the of­fi­cers sep­a­rately and I read them the riot act. Fa­tal shoot­ings nose­dived.”

Lewin be­came the 26th po­lice com­mis­sioner on De­cem­ber 17, 2007, three years be­fore INDECOM was es­tab­lished to re­spond to pub­lic con­cerns about po­lice ex­cess and trans­parency in in­ves­ti­gat­ing them.

But “the same knife that’s stick­ing INDECOM now stuck me,” said Lewin, who served as head of the Ja­maica De­fence Force be­fore his ap­point­ment as po­lice chief.

“The nar­ra­tive was that my lead­er­ship style is caus­ing the po­lice to be de­mor­alised, so they have dropped hands, and as a con­se­quence, crime is spi­ralling out of con­trol. I got stuck by that. I keep telling po­lice­men who I speak to when they talk about and com­plain, that look, INDECOM was a con­se­quence of the po­lice fail­ing to deal with their own is­sues.”

INDECOM ‘NOT RE­ALLY A SO­LU­TION’

Lewin, who re­signed in 2009, shared his story af­ter Pro­fes­sor An­thony Clay­ton, an ex­pert on lo­cal se­cu­rity, told the fo­rum that INDECOM “is not re­ally a so­lu­tion” for in­sti­tu­tional prob­lems af­flict­ing the po­lice force.

“INDECOM is pick­ing up the prob­lems af­ter they’ve al­ready oc­curred,” Clay­ton said. “What we re­ally need to do is em­pha­sise the more low-key, but es­sen­tially pre­ven­tive, mea­sures be­cause if you have good sys­tems, bet­ter sys­tems of train­ing, ac­count­abil­ity, over­sight, and man­age­ment in place, a lot of these prob­lems wouldn’t oc­cur in the first place.”

Over the six years of its es­tab­lish­ment, INDECOM and the po­lice have had a rough re­la­tion­ship, char­ac­terised by com­plaints that the over­sight body is “overzeal­ous” and af­fect­ing po­lice work.

Politi­cians are still de­bat­ing whether to set up an over­sight body for INDECOM.

Last month, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Robert Mon­tague ac­knowl­edged po­lice con­cerns about INDECOM and an­nounced in Par­lia­ment that the po­lice force and INDECOM were to sign an agree­ment to govern the en­gage­ment of both groups.

Pub­lic De­fender Ar­lene Har­ri­son Henry and hu­man rights lob­by­ist Su­san Goffe, who also par­tic­i­pated in the fo­rum, in­sisted that INDECOM re­mains an “es­sen­tial” part of the ef­forts to trans­form the po­lice force.

“It is an es­sen­tial part of the so­lu­tion be­cause as we have seen, where there is no ac­count­abil­ity, the things (ex­cesses) con­tinue as al­ways. From their data, they (INDECOM) pro­duce re­ports that high­light trends within the po­lice force, weak­ness, things that can re­sult in abuse,” Goffe ar­gued.

Ac­cord­ing to INDECOM, 1,918 civil­ians were killed by mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces be­tween 1999 and 2009, with the high­est sin­gle-year fig­ure – 272 – recorded in 2007.

The fig­ure dropped to 224 in 2008 be­fore jump­ing again to 263 the fol­low­ing year.

Last year’s fig­ure of 106 was the lowest in years.

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