JIS News

Cabinet has issued drafting instructions for an independent Commission to be established to investigate the excessive use of force and instances of abuse by members of the security forces.
Minister of Justice and Attorney General, Senator Dorothy Lightbourne who was speaking at (Nov. 27) post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House, said the establishment of this Commission is part of the Government’s response to the national outcry over allegations of police excesses.
Senator Lightbourne noted that there have also been complaints by members of the public about the Police Public Complaints Authority, the current body which investigates allegations of misconduct and abuses by the police.
“The main complaint is that this body is not seen as independent. It is also felt that the investigations are not in-depth enough and that once the investigations are complete, nothing much seems to happen,” the Justice Minister said. Also, she added, “when an investigation is on-going, the complainants don’t really know what is happening”.
This proposed independent Commission will have powers similar to the Police Public Complaints Authority and more, and will operate in offices in all five police divisions islandwide.
“This body is meant to increase public confidence in the whole process. The police themselves are mandated that once there is a killing or a citizen is alleged to have been abused, the complaint must be made by the police to this Authority. It will carry a penalty if the complaint is not made. They have powers themselves to initiate a report once they hear of an incident,” Senator Lightbourne also informed.
Members of the security forces are also required to report to the Commission in cases where persons have either died or have been injured through direct or indirect contact with the security forces.
The Justice Minister and Attorney-General told journalists that the proposed Commission will have the same power as a police constable. “It is proposed that they will be able to go in and take over a crime scene. If there has been a killing, the officer from this independent authority will take over the crime scene and they will either conduct the investigations themselves, or they will supervise the police in the investigation”.
Additionally, the Commission, which will have access to all reports regarding instances of alleged abuse by the security forces, will also be able to examine weapons, photographs, and forensic data when carrying out their investigations.
Senator Lightbourne said the Commission can also request information from the security forces and review the disciplinary procedures. The Commission may even make recommendations to Parliament “as to how the whole system can be improved”, she added.
The Commission will be chaired by an Attorney-at-Law and its members will be appointed by the Governor-General. “It will be people of the highest integrity and also there will be a caveat that if they were former police officers they must not have served for the last seven years,” she disclosed.
The Commission is required to give frequent reports to the public about on-going investigations as well as submit quarterly reports to Parliament.
Senator Lightbourne told journalists that once the investigations are completed, the Director of Public Prosecutions will either prosecute the guilty party or internal disciplinary procures may be carried out, while mediation will be suggested for minor infractions.