Thu | May 25, 2017

Crawford’s premise is nonsensical

Published:Thursday | August 13, 2015 | 8:00 AM

If the supporters of INDECOM are slow, then Damion Crawford must be still - because this letter written by him and published in The Gleaner on Sunday, August 9, titled 'Failings of INDECOM', confirmed in my mind that his "mind's map" should be of concern to all well-thinking Jamaicans.

To begin with, the premise on which he based that letter could not have been more nonsensical. It is nothing but a sweeping generalisation about the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). How can any well-thinking member of society base a paradigm on the fallacy that "all police officers are corrupt"? This is an insult to the intelligence of Jamaicans and, particularly, the members of the JCF. Further, this is not the premise on which the commission was established.

He said, while he wants extrajudicial killings to be eradicated, if possible, he does not agree with the setting up of an independent oversight body.

The premise that all police officers are corrupt is similar to the premise that all politicians are corrupt and all lawyers are liars. It is simply not so and cannot be accepted.

 

discrediting worldwide oversight bodies

 

Crawford further claims that he finds "the strategy of an independent oversight body for the police force unacceptable". So this means the Federal Bureau of Internal Affairs, the body in Austria that oversees the conduct of their law-enforcement agents would be unacceptable to him; and so would the Standing Police Monitoring Committee in Belgium; the Independent Police Complaints Commission of England and Wales; the Police Complaints Authority of Trinidad and Tobago, New Zealand; and the Independent Police Council in Hong Kong, just to name a few. Are all these independent investigative bodies that oversee the action of their law-enforcement agents in their respective countries also unacceptable?

For an independent oversight body to make sense, we would have to accept that it is important to enhance accountability and transparency in policing in an effort to build trust between the citizens and the police, rather than the perpetuation of the tumultuous relationship that now generally exists between police and citizens in Jamaica.

Crawford also claims that INDECOM is failing because of his sweeping generalisation theory that the police force is overrun with corrupt cops and, as such, the handful of convictions is immaterial. Please note that three matters were completed in the courts and 10 police officers convicted because one matter involved eight police officers. All this information is in the public domain, and Crawford knows that. Crawford knows very well that INDECOM does not control the speed with which matters are tried in the justice system. He knows very well that there are murders that happened between five and 10 years ago, and more that are yet to be tried. So I find it disingenuous of him to even attempt to allude to this point at all. INDECOM reportedly has more than 85 matters before the court and only three matters have been completed. This is in no way a reflection on INDECOM's conviction rate; it is an indictment on the justice system.

INDECOM was formed partly because the Police Public Complaints Authority (PPCA) received hundreds of complaints against members of the security forces and because neither the Bureau of Special Investigations nor the PPCA enjoyed the confidence of the public to investigate allegations of abuse made against their own colleagues. It was formed, not because the JCF in its entirety is corrupt, but because, under the Constitution and international law, the State has an obligation to ensure that independent investigations into a potential violation of the right to life are being carried out, which is a requirement under Article 2 of the European Convention on the Human Rights to which Jamaica is a signatory.

I encourage all well-thinking members of society to take on the critics like Crawford and, more recently, Police Federation Chairman Sgt Raymond Wilson, who fail or refuse to recognise the import of independent oversight and the role it plays in safeguarding the right to life of citizens and the sacred trust between police and the communities they serve, making everyone that much safer.

At the end of the day, law-abiding citizens and good police officers are not in the minority; that much we must accept. If we accept this premise, then institutions that require transparency and accountability for the use of force, like INDECOM, will serve to affect the minority - the bad apples among us. To that end, organisations like INDECOM must remain on the wage bill.

C.H. Foote

foote.charlene@gmail.com