Sun | Dec 15, 2019

Only INDECOM boss can force cops to talk

Published:Wednesday | November 13, 2019 | 12:47 AM
Rowe
Rowe

A Full Court ruling that Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) officers have no power to compel police personnel under probe to answer questions during an interrogation has been hailed by the Police Federation as a landmark victory.

The ruling, made in September, followed a judicial review that found that only the commissioner of INDECOM has compellable authority over a cop. That power, the court ruled, could not be transferred to subordinate officials.

Chairman of the federation, Sergeant Patrae Rowe, said INDECOM had sought to encroach upon the rights of police personnel.

“The Police Federation has always encouraged our members to attend upon INDECOM, cooperate with INDECOM investigators, and offer full disclosure to any incident,” said Rowe. “However, the federation also has a vested interest in ensuring that INDECOM conducts itself in accordance with their legislation ... .”

“We have to protect our members against self-incrimination, and to protect the right of the presumption of innocence until proven guilty,” Rowe added.

The federation said that on September 21, 2017, an INDECOM officer, while carrying out an investigation into a fatal shooting, tried to compel a police officer to answer a question after the cop declined during an interview.

According to a press statement issued by the federation, “In quashing the decision of the INDECOM officer, the Honourable Justice Nicole Simmonds, who was the head of a panel of three judges, found that the power given to the commissioner under Section 21 (5) is non-delegable.”

Chuck Cameron, the policeman’s attorney-at-law, was insistent that INDECOM was not bigger than the law.

“While we appreciate that INDECOM is a relatively young institution, it is necessary for them to operate in a fair and even-handed manner and within the four corners of the INDECOM Act,” Cameron said.