Sat | Dec 9, 2023

Alfred Dawes | Who watches the watchers?

Published:Sunday | September 25, 2022 | 12:10 AM

While a football match was being indiscriminately shot up last Sunday, human rights advocates were chastising calls for tougher measures on criminals, from the comfort of their cosy enclaves, far from the whizzing bullets. Recently, I dared to...

While a football match was being indiscriminately shot up last Sunday, human rights advocates were chastising calls for tougher measures on criminals, from the comfort of their cosy enclaves, far from the whizzing bullets.

Recently, I dared to call out their role in the subjugation of our independent state by unseen international funders, who use them to dictate our local affairs. Rather than rebut my statement that human rights groups are most active in developing countries, their approach has been to launch ad hominem attacks. The questions as to who are their donors, and what strings are attached to the millions of US dollars pouring into their coffers, still remain unaddressed. It is clear that these questions are very uncomfortable and the polite thing to do is to allow the discussion to end gracefully. It will not.

Non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are powerful entities that work with near impunity in targeted countries. Their operation under the auspices of international organisations grants them the privilege of limited scrutiny by governments who are afraid of upsetting the international community. Their names are chosen to be as benevolent and benign as possible, while executing their true purposes. Membership may be limited to a small group, devoid of any mass movement, so their power comes from access to the media. They seize upon public outrage to channel the discourse towards their main objective, convincing us that it is the only solution.


Movements borne out of public outrage are easily hijacked by special interest groups. Do you recall the Justice for Mario Dean movement? Dean was killed by other prisoners while in police lock-up for possession of a marijuana spliff. The outraged public demanded that those responsible for his death be brought to justice and improvements made in prisoner supervision. Justice for Mario Dean quickly evolved into a fight for the decriminalisation of marijuana, as special interest groups used public outrage to push the narrative that Dean would have never been in custody in the first place, had he not been arrested for the weed. Faster than you could say never let a good crisis go to waste, marijuana was decriminalised and a multibillion-dollar cannabis industry irrigated with the tears shed over the death of Mario Dean. To this day the family still has not received their justice, while those who hugged them for the cameras are living large on the profits of the cannabis industry.

If they were truly Jamaicans on a quest for justice, their lobbying efforts would have focused on access for justice for the poor and disenfranchised. They would advocate for the reform of the justice system and facilitate legal representation for those who cannot afford it. But justice is not their true intent despite their name. Jamaicans against police killings just doesn’t have the same ring to it. Advocacy against excesses by the security forces has its place. But in an attempt to rein in extrajudicial killings, interests groups have castrated our security forces’ ability to take on hardened, well-armed criminals.

As a result of human rights groups portraying the Jamaican police as bloodthirsty killers of innocents, INDECOM, again largely funded by international organisations from the First World, was established to rein in killer cops. By the advertised outcomes it worked. Extrajudicial killings plummeted from 258 in 2013 when INDECOM was established, to 86 in 2019. What is not advertised, however, is that INDECOM has created an even more hostile working environment for good cops who are disincentivised from taking on armed criminals.


If an officer is indicted by INDECOM following a complaint, their career is immediately put on hold, no promotions, no exams, no job interviews. They have to find their own money to retain legal representation, and in some instances are placed on leave. Added to that is the stigma of being labelled a corrupt cop and the stress that the entire situation brings. Irrespective of whether the cop is cleared, they have to go through this psychological, career modifying and financially stressful period. Who among us would not see this as an incentive to avoid challenging criminals and increase your risks of ending up in INDECOM’s crosshairs?

Ask any cop to speak frankly and off the record and they will tell you that they fear the spectre of INDECOM whenever they confront armed criminals. The criminals know this and they are emboldened. Since 2013, the murder rate has skyrocketed and armed attackers more brazen. The INDECOM and human rights supporters will deny vociferously that there may be a link. But crime is a product of multiple inputs, and security forces being afraid to challenge gangsters with assault weapons, in my humble opinion, is at least a minor contributor. The pendulum has swung too far in the regulation of cops. It is time we find a middle ground where good cops are not afraid of standing up to these criminals, while at the same time, we do not go back to the days of police excesses. The conduct of INDECOM and the effect it has on the police psyche must be probed. The watchers must be watched. Any reform of the JCF and INDECOM must be by us Jamaicans with Jamaicans at heart, who try to stay alive while watching a local football game, not a lobbyist singing for their supper in a gated community, or safely overseas.

International human rights groups should focus on the excesses of the security forces who slaughtered African migrants in Morocco, murder innocent blacks in America, and rape, murder and pillage those whose countries they “liberate”. Our local advocates, meanwhile, should disclose how much per month they’re paid and what are their ultimate goals and priorities. It is time to call them out on their hypocrisy and unaccountability. Who watches the watchers?

Dr Alfred Dawes is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, and CEO of Windsor Wellness Centre. Follow him on Twitter @dr_aldawes. Send feedback to and