Cops run from gunmen to avoid INDECOM
Some members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) told The Sunday Gleaner that they deliberately avoid confrontations with gunmen out of fear that if it results in a fatal shooting, they could become a target of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).
One senior inspector of police revealed that several members of the force were employing delay tactics when deployed to locations where there were active shooters.
"Sometimes a shooting takes place and they send out police to respond to the shooting, and they take a long route or they drive slow, because their thing is to wait until the gunmen are gone," the inspector divulged. "Even when some officers go to MoBay [Montego Bay], they don't get involved in fatal shootings because of the whole scrutiny."
He continued: "I work on a team where people are straight front line, and now you can see the apprehension and tentativeness in officers to carry out certain duties, because the first thing they think about is INDECOM."
INDECOM investigates actions by members of the security forces and other agents of the state that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of the rights of persons, and for connected matters. Since its inception in 2010, more than 100 members of the JCF have been charged. Of the six cases that have been completed, five have resulted in convictions (including one case with eight persons), while one person has been acquitted.
According to a corporal, who has been a member of the JCF for over two decades, some of his colleagues are so fearful of suffering a similar fate that they simply aim to complete their daily shifts without engaging in any perilous work.
"If you are scheduled for an eight- or 12-hour shift and you know of something that could bear fruit - a gun find, drugs or something that could put a dent in crime - because of what is being portrayed and the negative experience other members would have had with INDECOM, it really serves as a deterrent," the corporal said.
"There are officers out there who have the know-how in relation to catching these guys (criminals), and putting them before the courts, but the method and how these guys (INDECOM) react dictate a lot. There are persons who just want to come and do an eight-hour and go home; persons could even walk past them with a firearm. That's the harsh reality."
The corporal, who was found not guilty of a murder charge prior to the establishment of INDECOM, believes the only way for the police to arrest the country's crime problem is for the lawmen to go above and beyond the call of duty and think like the criminals, as that could make the difference between life and death.
"You need to be different, be intuitive, think like how these guys think, because that's the only way you will be equal are above them (criminals)," the corporal said. "But if there is any huge disparity as it relates to their way of thinking and you, as a cop on the ground, you might find yourself injured or, worse, dead."
He added, "I recovered a firearm recently, and even though my life was at great risk, they (INDECOM) found themselves inside my head space and this served as a deterrent, not only to doing the job, but a hindrance to survival."
INDECOM NOT TO BLAME
INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams has described it as "sad" that members of the JCF are still contending that the work of the oversight body is hampering them from carrying out their job.
"The sad thing is that people can continue to make that suggestion, and it is sad for the JCF, because those who make it seem to be saying that we cannot work in a framework that we are accountable," Williams said.
"Six years ago, when there was no INDECOM, did the police have crime under very good control then? There was always increasing crime since the early '70s."
Williams further argued that if members of the force were not carrying out their duties, INDECOM was not to be blamed, but it was instead up to their superiors to ensure that they do their job.
"The answer is not to say let them have no accountability when it comes to human rights. The truth is, there are many officers who are used to the old ways when they could do things and not be called to question about those things," Williams said. "But those officers have to realise, through their leadership, that that is yesterday. The police of today must be accountable, and being accountable does not mean you can't do your work. If so, you are not cut out for that job."