We are encouraged by the insistence by the police brass that they and their subordinates will respect the authority of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) despite the threat by some cops to drop their hats.
The position of the senior officers notwithstanding, this newspaper believes that the circumstance reinforces our argument for Parliament to place the matter of INDECOM's power beyond doubt and the possibility of reversal by a superior court.
As they are at it, legislators should also streamline and strengthen the system for independent civilian oversight of the police force.
We return to these issues in the face of the report by this newspaper this week of policemen questioning why they should "take on" criminals if they might be "targeted" by INDECOM, the agency that investigates abuses by the police, including allegations of extrajudicial killings.
Several police groups, however, challenged - and lost in Jamaica's Supreme Court - INDECOM's authority to arrest and prosecute police officers it deems to have breached those areas of conduct the agency is empowered to investigate. The court held its position on two grounds: the common-law right for arrest by citizens and that having established an independent body to investigate the police, it was logical that Parliament intended to have the power of arrest and prosecution.
INDECOM's authority, the court held, however, did not derogate from the constitutional power of the director of public prosecutions to intervene in, take over, or stop prosecution in criminal cases at any time during the proceedings.
The police groups who initiated the challenge say they will appeal the ruling. This newspaper believes that given the impeccable ruling of the judges in the lower courts, the challenge will fail. But final courts are final only because they are. They can err.
In that regard, Parliament should put the matter beyond doubt with an explicit declaration of INDECOM's authority to arrest and prosecute.
At the same time, the Government should have Parliament create a tidy system for the oversight of the constabulary, in line with established systems in many democracies.
At present, a Police Service Commission (PSC) has oversight for employment-related matters in the constabulary. The Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) operates as a kind of inspectorate of performance, including the maintenance of plant. Its authority, however, is far from robust. In terms of policy, the police are responsible to the minister of national security.
Our suggestion is for the merger of the PSC and PCOA - a proposal that has been entertained by the Government - to ensure robust civilian oversight of the constabulary. At the same time, the police chief should be given greater flexibility, similar to the authority enjoyed by CEOs of corporations, to hire, fire and assign subordinates.
In the new set-up, the civilian oversight authority would operate as a kind of board, entrusted with policy direction, to which the police chief would be accountable for its implementation and the overall management of the force.
The appointment of this authority would be on a basis that ensures its independence, allowing it the space to fashion a modern, disciplined and professional police force.
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