Tue | May 30, 2017

INDECOM - The Enemy of the State

Published:Thursday | August 20, 2015 | 8:00 AM

The contempt being fielded at INDECOM is appalling. The reasons for this are ludicrous and reckless. This is how poorly constructed the arguments tend to be.

Crime and violence are spiralling out of control again. At the end of June, there were more than 570 murders - an 18 per cent increase - and INDECOM should be held culpable for this crisis. This travesty we are now facing, where criminals seem to have more rights than the men and women risking their lives to 'serve and protect' us, is INDECOM's fault. I am certain our parliamentarians were acting in our best interest when they repealed the Police Public Complaints Act on April 15, 2010, but it is time we accept that INDECOM is interfering with the police, effectively executing its duties.

The existence of and rationale for establishing INDECOM are faulty. The overwhelming majority of the police are honourable. All policemen and policewomen aren't rogue cops. Therefore, it is unreasonable to think they are unable to investigate themselves. Should we then believe the police are laden with ineptitude to investigate crimes perpetrated against the ordinary citizen? INDECOM's efficacy is a fallacy. It is an 'enemy of the State'.

Do we recognise how dangerous these arguments can be?

I imagine that since the majority of parents are good, the Office of the Children's Advocate (OCA) is similarly faulty. Likewise, since all agents of the State will execute their duties in the best interest of the child and can and will hold each other accountable, OCA is irrelevant (especially because its role seemingly overlaps with the Child Development Agency from time to time). There is really no need for the OCA since we can trust police won't lock children in adult detention centres (for extended periods of time), and adults working in places of safety won't mistreat children in their care. I imagine as well that since all parliamentarians are not corrupt, and we are confident they all understand the importance of transparency and accountability and, importantly, due process, the existence of the Office of the Contractor General (OCG) is unnecessary. We can trust that they can and will hold each other accountable and will propose appropriate remedies when they misuse public funding, for example.

More and more, I am beginning to think that this country's biggest quandary is our unwillingness to hold people accountable well, until we are directly affected (and even then, that is seemingly a challenge).

 

why INDECOM was established

 

It is clear some of us have forgotten why INDECOM was necessary. INDECOM was established "to undertake investigations concerning actions by members of the security forces and other agents of the State that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of the rights of persons; and for connected matters."

It is rather dangerous to suggest INDECOM hinders the police from doing its work (effectively?). Its success cannot be measured by number of convictions. In the first quarter of the year, INDECOM received 319 reports. 'Assault continues to be the most common complaint, accounting for 27 per cent of the total complaints. Conduct unbecoming or unprofessional conduct and discharge of firearm accounted for 15 per cent each. Eight per cent of the complaints were fatal shootings while shooting injuries and unlawful woundings accounted for five per cent each. The commission received no complaints of arson, harassment or sexual harassment/offence.'

We must be careful we do not engender a perception that the organisation's operation is mischievous. As Dennis Brooks said on Twitter earlier this week, we are using INDECOM as a scapegoat because "[i]n 2005, [there were] 1,674 murders. That year, Ja[maica] had the highest murder rate in the world. There was no #INDECOM to "demoralise" the police."

Undoubtedly, the majority of police are 'good cops'. I have the utmost respect for them. Some of them are my friends, old schoolmates and persons I work with from time to time. Notwithstanding, we can't deny some stymie its operations and positive image. All Jamaicans are grateful for the near 10,000 persons who risk their lives every day for our safety. They have a daunting task. The May 2010 incursion in West Kingston is evidence of the dangerous job they have.

It's really not such a bad idea that we have an independent entity to investigate complaints against the police and other agents of the State. External oversight is the global standard. Self-regulation is terrible. See what happened in the United Kingdom with the press monitoring itself? We must appreciate INDECOM is crucial to restoring confidence and building trust in the security forces so we can better support them.

• Jaevion Nelson is a youth development, HIV and human rights advocate. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and jaevion@gmail.com.