Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
THE POLICE Federation has urged lawmakers to put in place a system which will ensure that taxpayers stand the cost for legal representation and expenditure incurred by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) who are subjected to investigations by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).
Sergeant Raymond Wilson, chairman of the Federation, made the plea last Wednesday before a joint select committee of Parliament, which is reviewing the INDECOM Act.
Payment of costs
Wilson argued that the payment of costs by the State should come if following investigations it was found that incidents occurred during the lawful execution of the duties of police personnel.
He told Parliament that the manner in which INDECOM operates has not only been affecting the morale of police officers but is also putting them under financial strain.
According to Wilson, a recent survey of police officers conducted by police representative groups and the research, planning, legal services branch of the JCF, found that they were fearful that they may be arrested at the scene of a fatal shooting by INDECOM.
"The survey found that police officers were engaging in self-preservation, rather than focusing on the task at hand," said Wilson.
He added: "This is not because they want to avoid accountability, but because of the unfair manner in which they are held to account and the heavy burden of bearing all the legal fees to engage the process."
In the meantime, human-rights group Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) wants INDECOM to be given the power to arrest, charge, detain and prosecute police officers who are alleged to have engaged in misconduct.
The human-rights group, in a written submission to the parliamentary committee, said lawmakers should make it clear in the legislation that the proposed powers are not subject to the approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
Expanding INDECOM powers
At the same time, JFJ want lawmakers to expand the powers of INDECOM to give it all powers of the commissioner of police in relation to investigating and preparing matters for court and deeming persons as experts.
The suggestions, which will be among nine placed before the Mark Golding-chaired joint select committee for consideration on Wednesday, flies in the face of proposals from the Police Federation to limit the powers of INDECOM.
Last Wednesday, Federation chairman Wilson urged legislators to limit INDECOM to criminal probes only.
"The act must declare that INDECOM has authority to conduct criminal investigations only, where one is necessary, and should reinforce the point at which INDECOM initiate such investigation, and that at such point must be to conduct criminal investigations only based on the report of a misconduct, following the conduct of an administrative investigation," Wilson said.
He told the committee that the administrative probe should be conducted by the Police Civilian Oversight Authority.
The Federation head further argued that police personnel, who during the lawful execution of their duties use deadly force, should not be subjected to immediate arrest by INDECOM investigators.
"The file should be place before the director of public prosecutions for a ruling," said Wilson.