The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) last week released a revised version of its Human Rights and Police Use of Force and Firearms Policy. The Gleaner throughout this month will be releasing excerpts of the document to inform the public of the rules governing the JCF.
Right to Self-Defence
While it is the ultimate objective to minimise injury to every one involved, nothing in this policy requires officers to actually sustain physical injury before using appropriate force, or to expose themselves to unnecessary violence.
Members of the JCF have the right to defend themselves from unlawful physical violence and, where appropriate, to take pre-emptive action to diffuse or avert violence.
Obligation to protect others
If members of the JCF do not take appropriate and proportionate action to protect others from harm, they may be violating human rights and be in breach of their duty as police officers.
In making these important and often timely decisions, members of the JCF are reminded that they are accountable through the law for their actions. Apart from the criminal law, there may follow a civil suit, complaints may be made against individual officers and, in cases where death has resulted, a public inquest or other inquiry will be held by the coroner.
Obedience to Orders
Obedience to the orders of a supervisor shall be no defence if a police officer knew that the order to use force was unlawful and had a reasonable opportunity to refuse to obey it.
Responsibility will also rest with the supervisor who gave the unlawful order.
The primary responsibility for using force rests with the individual officer, who is accountable ultimately to the law and also to the commissioner of police.
Individual officers are accountable and responsible for whatever force they use and must be in a position to justify their actions in the light of their legal responsibilities and powers.
Any police officer who has reason to believe that improper force has been used or is about to be used by another police officer, shall, to the best of his/her ability, prevent or rigorously oppose any such use of force. This officer shall at the earliest opportunity report the matter to his/her supervisor and where necessary, to other appropriate authorities vested with responsibility for investigating such matters.
Supervisory members will be held responsible if they know or should have known through the proper discharge of their duties that officers under their command are resorting or have resorted to the unlawful use of force and they did not take all measures in their power to prevent, suppress or report such use.