Letter of the Day | Does INDECOM have an advocacy role?
THE EDITOR, Sir:
I took note of the fact that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), at its first quarterly press conference on May 26, 2017, expressed alarm at the increase in police fatal shootings for the first quarter of 2017 compared to the corresponding period last year. The figures presented by INDECOM showed a 45 per cent increase, which the Deputy Commissioner of INDECOM described as quite "disturbing".
Mr Editor, let us recall that INDECOM was established out of a situation where the public outcry at the time was that there exists an inherent risk of apprehended bias in a system where 'police investigate their own'. This call accorded with the old adage: 'Justice should not only be done, but should be seen to be done.'
Mr Editor, the posture taken by INDECOM over time has caused me to question whether it has properly interpreted its role as contained in the INDECOM Act, 2010. Does INDECOM have an advocacy or investigative role, or both? This seems to be a reasonable question based on the mode of operation observed.
Mr Editor, it is my opinion that the 2010 act established INDECOM as an independent investigative body that incorporates the functions of both police complaint and critical incident investigations. It, therefore, means that its mission should be to conduct transparent, timely and neutral or disinterested investigation of allegations of police misconduct. One of the hallmarks of good investigation is that they are devoid of emotions and based purely upon reason and facts.
PRINCIPLE OF NEUTRALITY
Mr Editor, I believe the principle of neutrality or disinterestedness is breached when INDECOM goes to various forums, sometimes accompanying advocacy groups, to lament about increases in police fatal shootings. It is a well-known fact that statistics, without the proper context, are meaningless. What if the increase in police fatal shootings is because brazen individuals are more inclined to take on the police in confrontations? What if the increase is a reflection of changes in the policing environment?
Mr Editor, I humbly submit that INDECOM's focus should be about dispassionate inquiries to ascertain whether these police shootings are deemed justifiable or not and pronounce its findings accordingly, on a case-by-case basis. At these forums, INDECOM should be informing the public on the number of fatal shooting investigations that have resulted in charges being proffered against police officers.
I urge INDECOM to clarify its role and leave emotional utterances to lobbyists, as justice should not only be done, but should be manifestly and undoubtedly seen to be done. I dare say INDECOM's job is to investigate.