Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Police fight back - JCF review body clears cops recommended not to lead internal operations again

Published:Wednesday | August 9, 2017 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

The integrity of the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry is being questioned in a Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) review that has cleared five cops of wrongdoing in the 2010 security operation in Tivoli Gardens.

The enquiry's commissioners last year recommended that Donovan Graham, Winchroy Budhoo, Everton Tabannah, Steve Waugh, and Mario Pratt not be involved in internal security plans and implementation. Budhoo died in May.

The commissioners said they came to that view after accepting as credible claims of extrajudicial killings and that some of the security force leaders were identified as "being in dereliction of duty or were administratively or operationally incompetent".

However, the JCF review team said it found no evidence that the named police personnel did anything wrong.

"The commission did not identify any specific act of dereliction of duty or misconduct on the part of any of the named officers," stated the review committee in its report released yesterday.

"Therefore," it continued, "it is the view of the committee that no basis existed for the adverse findings and comments (in the Tivoli report) and [we] see no reason why the named officers should not be allowed to continue to serve."

The David Simmons-led tribunal had said its recommendation was not a "punishment" but "a protective measure against similar abuses of power in future operations".

 

COMMISSIONERS CONFUSED, BIASED

 

Meanwhile, the JCF review team has highlighted several instances in which it questioned the procedures used by the commissioners to accept evidence and make its conclusions. It even suggested that commissioners were "confused" in one aspect and biased in others.

It also accused the commissioners of speculating when it concluded that "a number of persons were killed by members of the security forces". "This is highly speculative, as no credible evidence was led at the enquiry to substantiate this finding," said the JCF review committee chaired by acting Commissioner of Police Wray Palmer.

At one point, the review report said, "It appeared as a matter of convenience for the commission, that the accounts proffered by the JDF (Jamaica Defence Force) officers were accepted in all the circumstances where it was required as a basis to impeach members of the JCF."

Les Green, an assistant commissioner of police at the time of the operation set up to capture the now-convicted gangster Christopher 'Dudus' Coke, also came in for criticism in the JCF report, which said some of the cops were blamed for things not within their responsibility.

The committee said it found it "incomprehensible" that Green, who was head of the Criminal Investigations Branch, never gave evidence before the enquiry on the recovery of dead bodies, their identification and evidence gathering regarding the allegations of extra-judicial killings.

The review committee arrived at its findings after examining the Tivoli report and using the statements made by the cops at the enquiry.

On August 2, Graham was transferred to head Area One, which includes St James, triggering calls from human-rights groups and the public defender for it to be halted until the review was released.

 

KEY FINDINGS

 

- JCF command structure was appropriate.

- Role of Criminal Investigation Branch was not clearly demonstrated.

- Police had system to ensure effective, adequate investigation of use of force. System not followed according to plan but Bureau of Special Investigation "rose to the occasion".

- Misconduct by cops alleged in Tivoli report "based primarily" on fact that they did not produce records of location where dead bodies found, failure to preserve scenes.

jovan.johnson@gleanerjm.com