'Leadership lacking' - Failure of JCF, Parliament to implement recommendations crippling transformation of police force, stakeholders claim
At the heart of the recommendations of the 493-page report of the recently concluded West Kingston Commission of Enquiry is a rallying cry for serious reform and modernisation of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
Critical to this reform agenda is what the commissioners see as the need for strengthening the structures in place for oversight of the JCF.
Stakeholders, during a Gleaner Editors' Forum specially convened to discuss particular recommendations of the enquiry, disagreed with the need for additional oversight bodies to be established.
However, they argued that the lack of resources required to implement the commissioners' recommendation to strengthen the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), the Police Services Commission (PSC), and the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) provides the opportunity for greater effort to be placed on maximising the current resources of the agencies and for action to be taken on the numerous reports and recommendations produced over the years.
Recommendations being ignored
INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams was strident in defending the work of the oversight bodies, noting that recommendations critical to the transformation of the force and made to the JCF and Parliament have been consistently ignored.
When asked specifically whether the PCOA, in particular, has, during its 10 years in operation, failed to meet its mandate of providing the oversight called for by the enquiry report, Williams argued: "If there is a failure, it would be to ensure that the PCOA is not ignored. What I have seen is that the PCOA has made a lot of reports pointing out significant failings in the force in their audits, but we see them continue, and I wonder if it is a situation where the report is made and it is not acted upon."
He added: "The problem is not the PCOA. Resources can always be better, but the problem is not resources in my opinion. The problem is that Parliament, the commissioner of police, and the Ministry of National Security must ensure that the recommendations and reports of these audit and oversight bodies are taken into account and that the commissioner of police be judged for his role in the whole reform-agenda work," he added.
Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry, pointing to her previous involvement with the PCOA, revealed that numerous documents and studies had been produced by the agency and agreed that the responsibility for the sluggish pace of police reform rests with the political directorate and the leadership of the JCF.
Chairman of Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) Horace Levy said there was a leadership deficit in Parliament that hindered the transformation of the police force.
"Leadership is simply lacking. We keep coming back to the Parliament, the locus of resistance. They have their culture of six weeks vacation and one meeting a week. There is no Parliament in the world that functions like that, and unless we tackle things at the top with the Parliament - to address the rights of people who are suffering continuously under this regime - we will get nowhere," he said.