Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Editorial | Whither the review of Tivoli operation

Published:Monday | October 10, 2016 | 10:00 AM

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.