Tue | Aug 22, 2017

INDECOM costing cops - Police personnel unable to recover legal funds when cleared of wrongdoing before court

Published:Thursday | October 27, 2016 | 10:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Deputy Commissioner of Police Novelette Grant.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Novlette Grant says members of the police force have raised concerns about personal costs they incur when they appear before the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) for a hearing.

According to Grant, although INDECOM has assured the Police High Command that there is no need for the police to take an attorney with them when they meet initially with the oversight body, the experiences of members of the force dictate that it would be "foolhardy to go without legal representation".

Grant told members of Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) yesterday that the perception that members of the force were unwilling to be subject to oversight was far from the truth.

"The first process in the accountability chain should not be costly," Grant reasoned.

The senior police officer pointed out that the Government assists members of the force who are charged by INDECOM with legal costs, noting that police personnel are not reimbursed until they are acquitted.

"Whenever a police officer is called upon to account in a court of law, that police officer has to find the legal fees up front and then ask for reimbursement at the end of the process."

However, she made it clear that when police personnel appear before INDECOM for a hearing and take an attorney, there is no mechanism in place for reimbursement at the preliminary stage.

"This is what the police are saying, that this cost is so high on them that if they were to be cited to go before a court, they would have already been broke before they actually have anything to answer in a court of law," she added.

"These are some of the practical concerns of the members that make them wary of trying to engage with people who are armed out there and who are, in fact, taunting them with the idea that 'you can't do us anything because there is INDECOM'."

Grant said despite reassurances and support from the Police High Command, the rank-and-file members are of the view that they are the ones who have to face a "kind of trial".

Member of the PAAC Juliet Holness told her colleagues that whenever she interacts with rank-and-file members of the force, they divulge that "it is better to go to work and do nothing" than to face possible sanctions from the oversight body.

When head of INDECOM Terrence Williams made a presentation to a joint select committee of Parliament three years ago on the INDECOM Act, he exonerated the island's lawmen in the majority of cases where the actions of members of the force had been called into question.

At the time, Williams said that in many of his investigations he has found that the conduct of the officers was proper.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com