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Killer cops - Some 300 policemen linked to the majority of fatal shootings across the island , one cop involved in 21 incidents which left civilians dead over the past four years

Published:Sunday | June 26, 2016 | 6:00 AMRyon Jones
Terrence Williams (right), commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations and Hamish Campbell (centre), assistant commissioner at a recent media briefing.

A policeman implicated in 21 incidents which ended with the fatal shooting of civilians over the past six years remains in the force despite concerns by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

"The Police High Command has been notified of who that person is," Assistant Commissioner of INDECOM Hamish Campbell told The Sunday Gleaner.

"To be returned to duty each time and be responsible for killing 21 persons causes us some serious concerns when we look at all those cases," added Campbell.

He noted that while members of the police force have been involved in 485 fatal shootings between 2013 and 2015, fewer than three per cent of the members of the force were involved in these incidents.

But Jamaica's chief criminal investigator, Assistant Commissioner of Police Ealan Powell has argued that each case of a cop involved in fatal shootings is examined on its own merit to determine what level of punishment, if any, should be handed down.

"If a charge or an allegation is made against a policeman, those matters are investigated. Once a ruling is made, the commissioner (of police) will take the necessary action, if it is below the rank of inspector.

"If it is an inspector or above, the Police Services Commission will take the necessary action. Some of those actions could include suspension and interdiction," Powell, the head of the Criminal Investigation Bureau, told The Sunday Gleaner.

But that is not enough for Campbell, who told our news team that of the little over 10,000 members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), fewer than 300 are responsible for most of the fatal shootings with some being implicated more often than others.

He is urging the leadership of the force to begin asking some serious questions of its members.

"A healthy organisation must examine its standards and practices. Why is this occurring? Why is he the one always there? Why is he the one always going to the front door? Why is he the one always meeting these scenarios?

"Are they really as he described or is there something else; something more sinister? That's what we are asking to be examined," said Campbell.

INDECOM's head Terrence Williams revealed that from as far back as 2012, his team has been pointing out to the leadership of the force that some of its members have repeatedly been involved in one way or the other in fatal shootings.

"We have for some time noticed that we do have some officers who have been involved in or are present at shootings, which seems disproportionate when compared to their other colleagues; even colleagues who are in the same unit and doing the same kind of work," Williams told The Sunday Gleaner.

Williams said the Police High Command has taken some steps to tackle the issue, with one policeman, who INDECOM reported as being involved in an extraordinary number of fatal shootings being removed from such duties.

But Williams is adamant that a lot more can still be done, especially as it relates to the Mobile Reserve and other operational support units.

"Those units, which have, by their nature, the remit to take on gunmen also must have impeccable accountability. Their membership must be properly selected and persons properly trained and have a track record of proper conduct," said Williams.

"Not persons who have complaints against them for assaults and disciplinary complaints. Proper selection and training are key in those areas, and we want to see if improvement can continue."

Campbell also singled out the Mobile Reserve for special attention, as he pointed out that as a unit, it has been "involved in a somewhat disproportionate amount of police shooting incidents where fatalities occur."

"And within the Mobile Reserves, there will be some individuals who seem to be at those incidents, whether they shoot or not, on a more regular basis than normal."

Following a shooting incident, the police administration carries out its review, but INDECOM is interested in seeing how these reviews are undertaken, as well as being privy to the disciplinary records of some police personnel.

But the leadership of the force has repeatedly objected to this request.

"So we took the matter to the court and the court said 'yes these are relevant' to INDECOM's inquiry," said Williams.

"The police are now saying they want to see whether they could be excused from disclosing on the basis of privacy issues and public interest issues. So the matter is going to go back before the court for that to be discussed.

INDECOM is also joining the call for a 'same gun, same individual' policy to be implemented within the force, which was one of the recommendations coming out of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry.

According to the INDECOM boss, there have been too many cases, especially with keep-and-care firearms, where there are no records of who the weapons were last issued to.

"The long-term future is (that) all weapons should have barcodes and chips and there would be no problem as no one would have to write anything anymore," Campbell said.

ryon.jones@gleanerjm.com