Thu | Oct 19, 2017

Editorial | Police must publish Tivoli review findings

Published:Friday | August 4, 2017 | 12:00 AM

It wouldn't be in this newspaper's contemplation that it flushed the Police High Command into a public declaration that it actually initiated the recommended internal review of the constabulary's performance during the West Kingston operation and is now in possession of the findings.

Nor would be our view that they might prefer to mark the report classified, if not secret. For secrecy and concealment are not, we believe, the style of George Quallo, the still-new police chief to whom we are grateful for the confirmation - after almost a year of silence by his predecessors, despite questions being asked - that the work was done. Mr Quallo, the police say, "is having the report shared with various oversight bodies".

He, however, needs to do more.

An internal accounting of how the police acquitted themselves was among the recommendations of the Simmons enquiry into the 2010 mission by police and soldiers to execute an arrest warrant on the politically aligned crime boss Christopher Coke, who was believed to be holed up in his west Kingston redoubt, the community of Tivoli Gardens, protected by his private militia.

 

69 KILLED

 

Sixty-nine people, one of them a soldier, were killed in that exercise. But it is widely held that many of the killings by the security forces were wantonly. The commission of enquiry, chaired by former Barbados Chief Justice David Simmons, identified 20 persons who the prima facie evidence suggests were in this category.

Extrajudicial killings were primarily by the police's rapid-response unit, Mobile Reserve, the commissioners held.

Further, the Simmons report proposed new oversight arrangements for the Mobile Reserve; belittled the operational competence of a number of police officers; and named five policemen, including two later promoted to senior posts, who should never again be allowed to participate in an internal security operation. It was in that broad context that it recommended that the police, even seven years after the events of Tivoli Gardens, conduct the internal review - a proposal that was accepted by the then commissioner, Carl Williams - of the administrative or operational a conduct of exercise, including whether there was misconduct by police officers.

Commissioner Williams announced that the review would be conducted by a five-member board comprising two senior police officers, representatives of the Police Service Commission (PSC) and the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) and an independent chosen by these organisations. However, neither former Commissioner Williams at the time, nor Mr Quallo in this week's statement, indicated whether the formula was adhered to, or identified the members of the panel.

 

NECESSARY STEP

 

Naming the members of the review group is among the first thing Mr Quallo should do. It is a necessary step to assure the public that former Commissioner Williams followed through on the letter of his undertaking and that the panel was of such a calibre that any disagreement with their findings can't blamed on their incompetence of presumed bias.

Further, in the interest of transparency, Mr Quallo should publish the report, rather than sharing it with a few agencies, so that it can be subject to broad and robust analysis. Given that the review was at the behest of the police, Mr Quallo is in his right to share its findings with whoever he wishes.

Given the recommendations in the Simmons report, no officer commented on adversely therein should be considered for any internal operational duties, especially in the absence of a broad public airing of the findings of the review board. This is particularly important in the face of new legislation to establish state of emergency like zones of special operations in which members of the security forces will have enhanced powers to fight crime.