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'Honest cops need not fear' - INDECOM commish declares probes should not stop police from doing their jobs

Published:Sunday | August 2, 2015 | 12:00 AMLivern Barrett
Terrence Williams, commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations.
Hamish Campbell, assistant commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations.

The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has poured scorn on claims that rampaging criminals are being allowed to spread mayhem because its rigid oversight of the police has caused some senior crime fighters to drop their hands.

Amid a 16 per cent spike in murders this year, there are reports of rumblings within the ranks of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that some veteran street-smart crime fighters are nervous about being caught in the oversight body's cross hairs.

But INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams and his deputy, Hamish Campbell, in dismissing the claim, likened it to blackmail.

"It is wrong for anyone to tell a police officer that he should lay down arms and almost put the country to ransom, saying, 'I am not going to do my work if you make me accountable'," Williams said during a Gleaner Editors' Forum held last Friday at the company's central Kingston offices.

"Can you imagine a doctor saying I want to do your surgery, but you don't check to see that I do it right, or a teacher saying I want to teach your child, but if you're going to enforce the education code, I am not going to teach?" he reasoned.

"INDECOM doesn't make up any laws. INDECOM is trying to enforce the law of the land and the very rules and regulations of the police force. So if you are a police officer and you are trying to do your job honestly and fairly you don't need to fear," he added.


an odd bit of thinking


Campbell, former detective chief superintendent with the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom who joined INDECOM in 2013, was more blunt, calling the claim "an odd bit of thinking".

"It's an excuse I've heard since I got here, and it's really an odd bit of thinking. It's not on an intellectual level at all that the high crime rate is the responsibility of 38 investigators in INDECOM," Campbell said.

Police sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, indicated that a majority of JCF members harbour no resentment towards INDECOM, but accuse the oversight body of abusing its authority, especially in the first two years of operation.

"Some persons felt that he (the INDECOM commissioner) was just trying to get scalps, and they resent the sense of unfairness with which the office operated," said one source, who acknowledged that Williams is now "trying to do better".

Campbell and Dave Lewin, director of complaints for INDECOM's central regional office, located in Mandeville, believe this is an argument being fed to junior police personnel by a small group of senior officers.

"They tell them that INDECOM is out to get them," Lewin insisted. "So when the officers come for interviews and we offer them a cup of drink [they are like] no, no, no, and they are uptight. And when the interview is finished ... they realise it's nothing for them to fear, and then they might say, 'OK, I will take the drink now'."

Seeking to bolster that point, Williams disclosed that INDECOM has only brought charges against a handful of cops and pointed to instances where police personnel involved in incidents have been exonerated by his investigators.

"A very small per cent. I think about 15 per cent," he said of the number of JCF members charged by INDECOM.

Williams recounted the case of a Clarendon man who was reportedly killed in a shootout with the police.

"The police officer said he was shot at, but his own police officers searched the scene and could not find the gun. When we came on the scene, we did an extensive search and found the gun, which basically exonerated that policeman," Williams said.