NATIONAL SECURITY Minister Peter Bunting has expressed concern that the manner in which the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) operates can negatively impact the operations of the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
Bunting's concerns were raised during yesterday's sitting of a joint select committee of Parliament considering the INDECOM bill.
Sergeant Raymond Wilson, chairman of the Police Federation, had told the committee that his members were concerned that police personnel at scenes of incidents are being required by INDECOM to hand over their weapons for testing.
Wilson said the individuals required to submit weapons sometimes include police personnel who arrive at a scene after an incident.
Bunting suggested there was a potential mischief that arises when INDECOM chooses to take all firearms for testing.
But INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams said it is not the practice of his investigators to take away the guns of all the persons at the scene of an incident.
"You may have a patrol of nine who were involved in the incident and only three of them say that they fired. The argument is, why do you take from the six who were present? The point is that you cannot depend upon the word of the six who said they did not fire," Williams said.
"It is a different situation where others came on the scene afterwards, and it is pretty clear that they were not part of the incident," Williams added.
But dissatisfied with the response, Bunting said, "There is a risk, one that could be dangerous, in that patrols could be reluctant to respond to assist their colleagues if merely by responding, they are then going to become suspects, even if they were not involved in an incident, and taken out of operational duties for whatever time it takes for their weapons to be seized, boxed, for them to be swabbed and interviewed".
Added Bunting: "That … is a serious compromise of operational readiness. It cannot be that INDECOM cannot take the word of any single member of the security forces, whether officer (or) sub-officer, as to which patrols were involved in an incident. If we are going to start with that level of cynicism, then it won't, to my mind, work for a good working relationship."
Williams, however, told the committee he was unaware of any occasion where INDECOM had seized the firearm of police personnel who were responding to an incident.