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Why is Donovan O'Connor still on frontline duty, asks JFJ

OVER THE past three years Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) has documented six fatal shootings allegedly involving Detective Inspector Donovan O'Connor.

These were six among 46 complaints of varying types made to JFJ concerning policemen from Hunts Bay Police Station. Also, in a letter to JFJ of August 22 2001, the Bureau of Special Investigation (BSI) mentioned a further four fatal shootings being investigated, which involve Det. Insp. O'Connor. These repeated allegations raised concerns for JFJ about the appropriateness of the policeman remaining on frontline duty while investigations were ongoing.

THE RESPONSE OF THE JCF, GOV'T

After the first three killings, JFJ wrote to the Commissioner of Police, sending copies to the Ministry of National Security & Justice, the Police Services Commission, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Police Federation, the Police Public Complaints Authority, the Office of Professional Responsibility and the Bureau of Special Investigation. No replies were received and no action was taken.

A second letter also received no reply.

JFJ's letter following the fifth killing was sent to the Ministry of National Security and was copied to the Commissioner of Police and all the above-mentioned bodies; this letter was acknowledged but no action was taken.

JFJ's letter after the sixth killing drew a request for information from the Ministry of Justice, but still no action.

AGAINST JCF STAFF ORDERS
AND INT'L RECOMMENDATIONS

The Jamaica Constabulary Force Staff Orders of February 1997 states: "In each case when a member (of the JCF) uses deadly force the following procedure will be followed:

"The Commanding Officer of the member involved shall relieve the member from duties in any operational assignment, relieve him/her of the firearm, and not issue him/her with any firearm. The Commanding Officer in charge may assign the member to some administrative duty or relieve the member from all police duties pending the outcome of the administrative review." (Appendix A, Section XI, subsection B4)

Thus the JCF have failed to follow their own staff orders. They have also gone against international recommendations that "Those potentially implicated in extra-legal, arbitrary or summary executions shall be removed from any position of control or power, whether direct or indirect over complainants, witnesses and their families, as well as over those conducting investigation." (United Nations "Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions", paragraph 15, Economic and Social Council Resolution, 1989).

The recommendations of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF REPORT of January 2001), accepted by the Government of Jamaica, and also of the HIRST REVIEW, commissioned by the Government of Jamaica, have also been ignored.

JFJ'S SUBMISSION TO THE IACHR

Failure to remove Det. Insp. O'Connor from front line duties, as recommended by JCF Staff Orders, puts the community he works in at potential risk, creating a dangerous or emergency situation and violates the right to life of the citizens, which every Government must guarantee. Lack of action in this case resulted in JFJ on July 10, 2002 asking the IACHR to declare the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) in violation of its human rights obligations, and to issue a Precautionary Measure to the GOJ demanding that it take immediate and urgent steps to ensure the security of the citizens in Area 4 which is under the jurisdiction of the Hunts Bay Police Station.

On July 16 and again on August 9, 2002 the IACHR wrote to the GOJ requesting that they answer the issues raised in JFJ's petition. On August 26, JFJ received a communication from the IACHR containing pertinent parts of the GOJ's answer to the points raised in the submission. The GOJ's answer was "The Minister has passed the information to the Commissioner (of Police) for investigation." The IACHR then asked the GOJ for more details, again within a seven-day timeframe. On September 13, the IACHR informed JFJ that the Precautionary Measure had been granted, in the absence of the requested response by the GOJ. This is the first time that such a measure has been granted by the IACHR concerning Jamaica.

DELAYED RESPONSE

On Sept 14, the GOJ sent a delayed response to the Commission and the Precautionary Measure was suspended on September 16. JFJ was sent a copy of the Government's response in which the GOJ claims that the BSI is an "Independent Body;" this is factually incorrect. The BSI is a department of the Police Force. The GOJ further admits that the 1999 case of O'Neil Hall, who was fatally shot by Det. Insp. O'Connor, was sent to the Coroner's Court and has yet to be heard. The fatal shooting of William Richards in 2000 is awaiting a ruling from the DPP. The BSI is still investigating the fatal shootings in 2001 of Karon Foreman, David Campbell and Omar Wedderburn. So according to the Government's own records, this policeman has been involved in five fatal shootings, and investigations are not complete in any of them. The GOJ's response to the IACHR also states that Detective Inspector O'Connor has been transferred to St Andrew Central Division and remains on front line duty.

REMOVAL FROM FRONTLINE DUTY

Removing a policeman or woman from frontline duty following a fatal shooting should be an automatic procedure. He or she is not penalised, not interdicted, simply put into some other job, possibly administrative, while investigations continue. No presumption of guilt is implied. It allows for a clear period for investigation, and a period for counselling of the policeman or woman involved. This policy seems to be unevenly applied; some policemen are removed from frontline duty, and others are not, despite involvement in repeated fatal shootings. The question is - why?

THE NEXT STEP

Today, JFJ will send the IACHR our response to the GOJ's delayed reply. We will then await the IACHR's next step in this matter.

You may contact Jamaicans For Justice at ja.for.justice@mail.infochan.com or visit their web site at www.jamaicansforjustice.org

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