Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Editorial | PSC must come out of the shadows

Published:Wednesday | August 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM

Having displayed an appalling deficit of judgement, George Quallo is hoping to rescue his credibility by tossing the constabulary's discredited administrative review report to the Police Service Commission (PSC) for its deliberation and action.

We doubt the necessity or worth of that move. But the Gordon Shirley-chaired body, thus far silent in this affair, owes the public an explanation of where it stands in this situation, any role it may have played as the matter evolved, and its perspective on the long-term governance of the constabulary raised by the controversy.

When the Simmons commission of enquiry into the 2010 security operation to capture the crime boss Christopher Coke found that there was prima facie evidence of extrajudicial killings by members of the security forces, and cited five police officers for incompetence and dereliction of duty, they couldn't have expected an institutional attempt to impeach these findings.

Indeed, their recommendations for administrative reviews of the officers was, as the commissioners explained in their report, "to ensure internal accountability and thereby signal to their members that such matters (incompetence, dereliction of duty and misconduct) will be treated seriously".

 

OPENING TO RELITIGATE EVIDENCE

 

But the constabulary's review committee found in the commission's language an opening to relitigate the evidence upon which the commission had already deliberated and an opportunity for exculpation. Their conclusion was that there was absolute absence of evidence of extrajudicial killings by policemen and that the conduct of the named officers was beyond reproach.

In the face of public backlash, Commissioner Quallo declared that he would "stand by" the report, but later said that what he meant was that he was satisfied with the process of review and the competence of the panel that was made up of "experienced, technically sound and reputable citizens who were objective in their approach".

Except that Mr Quallo and the Holness administration weren't on the same page, and Robert Montague, the national security minister, was sent to tell him so. In the aftermath of that meeting, a statement from the constabulary said it "accepts the report of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry", adding that "it must never be construed that the police and the State are not in unison".

In the meantime, the report by which Mr Quallo stands is to be sent to the PSC "for a determination to be made in keeping with sections 46 and 47 of the Police Service Regulations of 1961". Which makes sense if you are Mr Quallo.

Section 46 requires that it must be "represented to the commission ... that a member has been guilty of misconduct". The review commission said there was no misconduct. The PSC, on that basis, would have no allegation to consider.

 

LARGER QUESTION

 

The larger question, now that Mr Quallo accepts the findings of the Simmons Commission, is whether that report was forwarded to the PSC for their review and action. But Mr Shirley and his fellow commissioners have known of the existence of that report for more than a year and, as an interested party, would have been expected to be curious about it, without requiring help from the police force. In that event, what did Professor Shirley's group do, and how will it now proceed?

Mr Quallo was wrong in his initial unencumbered embrace of the findings of the internal review, but his acquiescence after his meeting with Mr Montague is worrying. It raises questions about his likely willingness to allow ministerial intrusion, beyond the borders of policy, into the operational aspects of the constabulary.

This reminds of the old, stalled discussion of civilian, non-political oversight of the police force and the consensus for the need to merge the PSC and the Police Civilian Oversight Authority. This proposal must be urgently revived.