INDECOM too quick to charge - senior cop
One senior inspector of police is among several members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) accusing the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) of arresting and charging police personnel before conducting a proper investigation.
INDECOM took over from the Police Public Complaints Authority on August 16, 2010, and is responsible for undertaking investigations concerning 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.
But some members of the JCF are contending that INDECOM is abusing its power by taking police personnel off front-line duty and dragging them before the courts before a proper case has been built.
"I have no problem with a body such as INDECOM. The only problem I have is how they go about it. Is like they charge you and then they investigate, and there are several cases where that has happened," charged the police inspector, who has served two decades in the force.
"I have been to court with members and it is obvious that it was an ongoing investigation. They have nothing and they arrest you and have you in lock-up while they do the investigation. Our concern is that if it was a civilian, that could not have happened."
One constable currently facing a murder charge shares the view of his senior counterpart, as while he said he felt his actions were justified and he had nothing to fear, what worries him is the way in which INDECOM is going about investigating the matter.
"It is where they are arresting and investigating, and while they are investing, they are tweaking things to suit them," the constable accused.
But commissioner of INDECOM, Terrence Williams, is rubbishing the claims of the officers, as he pointed out that the act which governs the commission's operations does not allow for charges to be laid without the proper investigations being carried out.
"The INDECOM Act operates in a way that before anybody can be charged, it must come through the director of complaints and then be seen by me, the commissioner," Williams told The Sunday Gleaner.
"The design of the INDECOM Act is to ensure that all investigations are supervised by somebody with senior legal qualification and experience. So the complaint that is being made is completely off the mark, based on systems. Further, it is not our practice to charge persons before the case is completed."
Williams also highlighted that the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is given notification of every case to be brought against a member of the force.
"Of the six cases that have been completed, only one person was acquitted, and there is one where the DPP felt the case should not go on. We have five cases where there have been convictions, including one case with eight people," Williams said.
The commissioner further explained that most of the adjournments that happened in court regarding cases put forward by INDECOM were due to the defence not being ready or the court being taken up with other matters.
"It is not a case of INDECOM cases being adjourned because the file is not ready," Williams said. "If the state has an interest that justice be done, the state must have an interest to ensure that the cases are tried quickly, which is why the state must invest."
One sergeant believes, however, that many of the cases involving cops could be handled in the coroner's court, as they do not warrant charges being laid.
"The coroner's court is available to question these things that are vaguely chargeable for murder," the sergeant said. "Why go so drastic in the first place? It is as if they [INDECOM] have a vendetta. They just skip the coroner's court and go straight to a murder charge, and it is not a case where they can say it is blatant indiscretion; there is nothing to suggest that. These cases could easily be thrashed out with the member still being at work, but they just quick to charge because it suits their agenda."