House Passes Independent Police Investigations Bill

The House of Representatives has passed the Bill for the creation of an Independent Commission of Investigations to probe abuse of rights by the security forces.
The Commission will also have the authority to investigate other agents of the state, such as correctional and customs officers involved in such acts.
Discussions by the Committee of the Whole House on Tuesday (March 9) centred on the question of who should be in charge of the crime scene, and what procedures should be followed.
Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, explained that one amendment requires the Commissioner of Police to implement measures to ensure that police personnel, as soon as practicable after being notified of an incident, attend the scene to ensure its preservation, until the arrival of an investigator assigned by the Independent Commission.
Thereafter, each member is obligated to continue to take steps to preserve the scene, until the Commission’s investigator is satisfied that it is no longer necessary.
But Member of Parliament for East Central St. Andrew, Dr. Peter Phillips, expressed concern that an impractical situation may be created, where there are two authorities (the Commission’s investigator, and the police) in charge.
“We run the risk of creating a kind of paralysis in some situations, by just having the bifurcation of authorities that would take place,” Dr. Phillips contended. He suggested, instead, that the police, to whom the commissioner’s powers are delegated, be allowed to exercise ultimate authority.
However, Mr. Golding explained that the intent behind the establishment of the Commission would be frustrated if it is not able to preserve the evidence.
“Which is why, it is only in relation to the preservation of evidence that we are defining this superior authority and responsibility and placing it with the Commission,” the Prime Minister explained.
Mr. Golding pointed out that currently, once the Bureau of Special Investigations’ (BSI) representatives arrive, they take charge of the crime scene. However, this presents a problem as the BSI represents the police therefore, in essence, the police is investigating itself.
“The BSI could be there in two capacities – investigating what happened, but also investigating the conduct of one of their own. We run into this problem of, how do we make the investigating authority independent, but still support it with the statutory authority it needs to discharge its investigating duty,” he pointed out.
“The purpose of all of this is to hold agents of the State accountable and, therefore, put the investigative body in charge of that scene, where the accountability and the conduct of an agent of the state is being called into question, without necessarily doing prejudice to the investigation of any crime that may have been committed in the course of the response to which an abuse of rights may have taken place,” Mr. Golding stated.
Member of Parliament for West Central St. James, Clive Mullings, stressed that legislation could not cover every situation.
“The Commissioner of Police will settle the protocols for the Commission on which it should what is important would be who has responsibility under law to preserve a crime scene, (and) secondly whether the interruption of a crime scene is pursuant to a greater interest,” Mr. Mullings contributed.
Another significant amendment to Bill is that members of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) will become liable to being investigated if they commit a breach of the Act, even if they were not part of a joint operation.
“What we are saying is that the military must be held accountable, whether they are working with the police, or on their own, because abuse of rights doesn’t necessarily have to involve joint operations,” the Prime Minister noted.
The amendments also require bodies, other than the police, to notify the Commission once they receive reports of, or are aware of an incident that is deemed an offence.
“Once you get a report of an incident, involving any of these specified officers, you must forthwith report it to the Commission,” the Prime Minister said.
He explained that the Head of any agency, be it the correctional services, the police or the army, once they receive a report of an incident that falls within the definition of incidents under the Act, must immediately, upon receiving that report, notify the Commission that they have received the report, even while pursuing their own investigations.
Additionally, a member of the security forces, or a specified official, who in the course of his/her duties becomes aware of, (or) is involved in any incident, must take steps that are necessary, including reporting the case to the responsible officer to ensure that a report is made to the Commission.
The Commission will have regional offices, headed by a chairman or deputy chairmen, allowing for the conduct of investigations into complaints against the security forces, appointment of investigators to carry out investigations and ensuring that the necessary reports are submitted.
Debate on the Independent Commission of Investigations Act 2010, which was eventually passed with 33 amendments, began in the House of Representatives on Wednesday, February 10.
On May 8, 2009, the Senate adopted the Report of a Joint Select Committee of Parliament, which reviewed legislation for the establishment of the Commission.
The Commission will replace both the BSI and the Police Public Complaints Authority (PPCA).

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