Cops embrace INDECOM: Commission notes improvements, but still wants more
Ryon Jones, Staff Reporter
After more than two years of operation and a number of tense interactions with the police, head of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), Terrence Williams, says the demeanour of the security forces towards his office has improved.
INDECOM, established in August 2010, is mandated to investigate actions by members of the security forces and other agents of the state that result in death or injury to persons or the abuse of their rights.
"I think the (fact) that INDECOM has primacy at a scene is generally accepted by most police officers, so they will yield to us when we come to do assessments in 90 per cent of the cases; 10 per cent, of course, worries us because we need to have full compliance with that," Williams said yesterday while addressing a Gleaner Editors' Forum at the newspaper's central Kingston offices.
During its first year of operation, the commission at times drew the ire of police personnel dissatisfied with how it carried out its investigations at crime scenes.
INDECOM also met resistance from police about giving statements without lawyers present after controversial killings.
Yesterday, however, Williams said: "We are getting statements, albeit late; we prefer to get them quite early."
He continued: "We are in a continuum of improvement. It is certainly not like it was 10 or five years ago. I believe that INDECOM as compared to the PPCA (Police Public Complaints Authority) is a much more robust body. So there are certainly areas of improvement, but I don't believe we can be satisfied and stop there, we need to push it on some more."
NEW APPROACH NEEDED
Since the start of the year, there have been 19 police killings and Williams believes the force needs to take a new approach to the upholding of human rights.
"I think what the police force should do is look at the whole suite of best practices in human-rights policing and don't do like a buffet and take some things, but take the whole suite."
One major issue that Williams currently has with the security forces is how quickly officers implicated in killings are allowed to return to front-line duty.
"The administrative review is the process by which police officers are determined to return to duty after an incident; it normally happens within 48 hours," Williams explained. "The proper standard should be that an officer should not be returned to duty until the investigation is finished."
He added: "The use-of-force policy says they (officers) should document their accounts, so how can you return someone to duty and they have not documented their account? You return the person to work in the same community the incident had occurred."
Investigating a police shooting and making recommendations for a person to be prosecuted or absolved is currently a lengthy process, but Williams is assuring that his organisation can significantly shorten the time.
"We can organise ourselves for it to be shorter than three years," Williams said. "We can organise ourselves for 60 days because we have a ballistic laboratory now, so if we get the exhibits swiftly, we can organise ourselves for 60 days."