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EDITORIAL - Dismantling INDECOM won't be tolerated

Published:Tuesday | May 22, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Peter Bunting, the national security minister, is hereby advised that we will be watching him like a hawk to ensure that there is no watering down of efforts to hold Jamaica's police force to account for misbehaviour, especially the abuse of citizens' rights.

The Jamaica Police Federation and its recalled former chairman, Raymond Wilson, also have fair warning that this newspaper, like all right-thinking Jamaicans, will not tolerate the dismantling of The Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).

INDECOM is an independent agency that was established to probe citizens' complaints against the police, including cases of fatal shootings and claims of excessive use of force. It was inspired by the need to end the practice of the police investigating themselves, in which public confidence had collapsed.

Mr Terrence Williams, the head of INDECOM, has shown tenacity and courage in pursuing his mandate in the agency's short life. That is encouraging.

But for an institution accustomed to near impunity in its behaviour, the advent of INDECOM has been a nettle to the constabulary, or large factions therein. They, on our interpretation of the evidence, have sought to thwart it at every turn: its right to operate at, or take over, crime scenes questioned; its ability to arrest and charge police personnel legally challenged; its capacity to demand statements from suspect officers similarly so. Indeed, the latter issue, involving two policemen who were involved in a fatal shooting, has been argued before the Constitutional Court and is awaiting adjudication.

This newspaper, of course, subscribes to the protection of rights of every citizen. But that, we fear, is what the INDECOM challenges are about. We perceive something far more sinister.

We worry that Mr Bunting, and the People's National Party, keen to keep the police electorally onside, are in danger of being ensnared. We are gravely concerned, therefore, about Mr Bunting's acquiescence to the urgings of the Police Federation's call for the review of the INDECOM Act.

Mr Bunting, in a speech to last week's conference of the federation, stressed that the effort will be to remove ambiguities from the law and to give INDECOM appropriate, but not excessive, powers.

While we appreciate the limited scope of Mr Bunting's project, we are aware of the mission of some loud and aggressive lobbyists to render INDECOM toothless, especially when they are in the hands of politicians keen on seeking votes.

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