Jamaica Gleaner

Damion Craw­ford: The fail­ings of INDECOM

- Damion Craw­ford Damion Craw­ford is MP of East Ru­ral St An­drew and ju­nior min­is­ter of tourism and en­ter­tain­ment. Email feed­back to col­umns@glean­erjm.com. Police brutality · Crime · Discrimination · Human Rights · Society

APARADIGM is said to be a per­son’s in­di­vid­ual mind map that takes him/her from in­for­ma­tion to con­clu­sion. One should, there­fore, easily un­der­stand that two peo­ple could get the ex­act same in­for­ma­tion and ar­rive at very dif­fer­ent con­clu­sions based on their mind’s map (par­a­digm) that has been shaped by years of ex­pe­ri­ences and the tenets of so­cial­i­sa­tion.

Based on my own par­a­digm, I find even the con­cept of INDECOM un­ac­cept­able. Please note, I did not say I find the stated ob­jec­tive/s that led to the for­ma­tion of INDECOM un­ac­cept­able, in­stead, I find the strat­egy of an in­de­pen­dent over­sight body for the po­lice force un­ac­cept­able.

At this time, it is im­por­tant for us to dif­fer­en­ti­ate be­tween ob­jec­tives and strat­egy. The ob­jec­tive is the end re­sult which is de­sired, and the strat­egy is the method that will be em­ployed to achieve the stated end re­sult.

This be­ing un­der­stood, it should not be un­ac­cept­able that I agree 100 per cent with the ob­jec­tive of lim­it­ing – if not erad­i­cat­ing – the in­ci­dents of in­no­cent civil­ians be­ing killed by rogue mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces. This, while si­mul­ta­ne­ously dis­agree­ing with the strat­egy of set­ting up an in­de­pen­dent over­sight body, in our case, INDECOM.

I am against INDECOM’s very ex­is­tence be­cause I find the premise upon which it would make sense un­ac­cept­able. The premise upon which an in­de­pen­dent po­lice over­sight body would make sense is: the ac­cep­tance that the po­lice force, in its to­tal­ity, is too cor­rupt to in­ves­ti­gate some crimes (in this case, crimes com­mit­ted by one or some of its mem­bers).

For an in­de­pen­dent over­sight body to be nec­es­sary, we would have to ac­cept that:

1) The po­lice force in to­tal­ity – and not just some po­lice per­son­nel – is so cor­rupt that the force in sum is in­ca­pable of in­ves­ti­gat­ing some crimes.

2) If one ac­cepts that the po­lice force, as a to­tal unit, is too cor­rupt to in­ves­ti­gate crimes com­mit­ted by po­lice of­fi­cers, then it is im­por­tant that, as a so­ci­ety, we fur­ther an­a­lyse what other seg­ments of so­ci­ety the po­lice force is also too cor­rupt to in­ves­ti­gate. For ex­am­ple: fam­ily mem­bers of po­lice­men, politi­cians, pop­u­lar dons, the rich, Rasta­far­i­ans, teach­ers, etc. Are we to as­sume that they are only too cor­rupt to in­ves­ti­gate them­selves, but suf­fi­ciently not cor­rupt to in­ves­ti­gate all other sec­tions of so­ci­ety?

If the po­lice force, as a to­tal unit, is too cor­rupt to in­ves­ti­gate some crimes, then it is my view that INDECOM is not the an­swer. In­stead, we need an over­haul of the po­lice force to re­place these rogues with some good men. There­fore, if we have a rogue force, we have pre­scribed the wrong medicine.

Now to the ar­gu­ment of whether or not INDECOM is fail­ing. This, I be­lieve, is a sim­ple mat­ter of logic. If we as­sume, as some do, that the force is ex­tremely cor­rupt (an opin­ion which I do not share), and add this to the fact that INDECOM has only got roughly 10 pros­e­cu­tions in five years, logic then sug­gests INDECOM is fail­ing to bring a vast ma­jor­ity of rogue cops to jus­tice.


It is mu­tu­ally ex­clu­sive that (1) INDECOM is do­ing well with a hand­ful of con­vic­tions af­ter five years and (2) that the po­lice force is over­run with rogue el­e­ments. If we ac­cept as­sump­tion (1) above, INDECOM’s suc­cess rate on a sin­gle con­vic­tion sug­gests the is­sue of rogue po­lice is im­ma­te­rial and the en­tity is a waste of fund­ing. On the con­trary, if we ac­cept as­sump­tion (2) from above, INDECOM is fail­ing to bring the rogue po­lice to jus­tice.

It is im­por­tant that we look a lit­tle closer to As­sump­tion Two, i.e., INDECOM is fail­ing. I have never seen a fail­ing man with­out an ex­cuse, and INDECOM and its sup­port­ers are no dif­fer­ent. They claim the jus­tice sys­tem is slow; they claim the DPP is pro-po­lice; they gen­er­ally claim they are No. 5 and it was ei­ther No. 3, 4, 6 or 7 who stole the cookie from the cookie jar.

My prob­lem with this, how­ever, is all these re­al­i­ties ex­isted when these same sup­port­ers and, in­deed, the Par­lia­ment came to the con­clu­sion that the Po­lice Public Com­plaints Au­thor­ity was a fail­ure. These were the same re­al­i­ties the Po­lice Public Com­plaints Au­thor­ity faced when it was con­cluded that they were ei­ther un­will­ing or in­ca­pable to in­ves­ti­gate their own and, there­fore, INDECOM was needed. How is it now un­fair to judge INDECOM on the same play­ing field that its pre­de­ces­sor was judged on?

INDECOM and its sup­port­ers con­tinue to claim that the re­duc­tion in po­lice killings is proof that INDECOM is work­ing. Here, INDECOM seems to sug­gest that the fear of pros­e­cu­tion has caused the mem­bers of the po­lice force not to act neg­a­tively. There ex­ist clear flaws in this anal­y­sis: The re­duc­tion in po­lice killings doesn’t au­to­mat­i­cally sug­gest the re­duc­tion in ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings. In­deed, not all po­lice killings are un­law­ful acts, and so it is very pos­si­ble that to­tal po­lice killings have gone down, but un­law­ful killing has not.

More im­por­tant, it is also very pos­si­ble that the overzeal­ous ex­e­cu­tion of their ‘duty’ by INDECOM has caused the po­lice not to en­gage crim­i­nals for fear of the fi­nan­cial and per­sonal toll an ‘au­to­matic’ INDECOM in­ves­ti­ga­tion has on a po­lice of­fi­cer. A po­lice of­fi­cer once told me that the po­lice are more likely to go to jail than the crim­i­nal even when the po­lice are not guilty.

This as­sump­tion of ac­tion/in­ac­tion im­pacted by fear is very much in line with INDECOM’s ar­gu­ment that fear of pros­e­cu­tion im­pacts po­lice ac­tion, thus their claim that the re­duc­tion in po­lice killings is as a re­sult of INDECOM. The sole dis­pute here is, has INDECOM caused the po­lice force to act bet­ter, or, as I hy­poth­e­sise, to act less fre­quently?

Since we are as­sum­ing the likely im­pact on the po­lice per­son­nel’s ac­tions, let’s re­view some state­ments made by the po­lice in their sub­mis­sion to Par­lia­ment. The sub­mis­sion claimed that INDECOM has ex­hib­ited “overzeal­ous ac­tions” from in­cep­tion, which has re­sulted in a “strained re­la­tion­ship” be­tween the po­lice and its in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

The ap­proach adopted by INDECOM over the years “has eroded the con­fi­dence of a crit­i­cal mass of po­lice of­fi­cers, in their pur­suit of hard­ened and vi­o­lent crim­i­nals, and the con­duct of crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions in very se­ri­ous cases, where INDECOM side­lines the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tors by as­sert­ing its priv­i­leged po­si­tion of pri­macy in the in­ves­ti­ga­tions.”

“In some in­stances, the ac­tions of INDECOM have im­pacted neg­a­tively on crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions, thereby risk­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of crim­i­nals es­cap­ing pros­e­cu­tion and pos­si­ble con­vic­tion.”

Based on the above, I put it to you that it is more likely that po­lice per­son­nel who were act­ing law­fully in the pur­suit of hard­ened vi­o­lent crim­i­nals are now sim­ply less mo­ti­vated to act, rather than the gun­wield­ing cop killer of in­no­cent cit­i­zens who has been scared straight, as INDECOM and its com­mis­sioner, Ter­rence Wil­liams, would want you to be­lieve.

In con­clu­sion, there­fore, I main­tain my po­si­tion that INDECOM has failed in its man­date, and more im­por­tant, that the ex­penses of INDECOM should be a pri­or­ity cut in the ef­fort to re­duce the public­sec­tor wage bill.

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 ?? IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ?? In this Oc­to­ber 17, 2012 pho­to­graph, Matthew Noedel, a bal­lis­tics ex­pert, ex­plains how a mi­cro­scope in INDECOM’s lab­o­ra­tory works.
IAN ALLEN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER In this Oc­to­ber 17, 2012 pho­to­graph, Matthew Noedel, a bal­lis­tics ex­pert, ex­plains how a mi­cro­scope in INDECOM’s lab­o­ra­tory works.
 ?? RU­DOLPH BROWN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ?? INDECOM Com­mis­sioner Ter­rence Wil­liams.
RU­DOLPH BROWN/PHO­TOG­RA­PHER INDECOM Com­mis­sioner Ter­rence Wil­liams.

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