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Jamaicans are now more willing to report police misconduct and this has advanced the work of the Professional Standards Branch (PSB) of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), as it seeks to make the Force more professional and efficient, paving the way for a safer Jamaica.
Head of the Corporate Affairs Division of the PSB, Superintendent Lorna Wilson tells JIS News that since the establishment of the Internal Affairs Anti-corruption Division of the PSB on June 1 last year, some 33 members of the JCF have been arrested for acts of corruption or involvement in criminal activity. She informs that of these cases, there have been several convictions, while some cases are pending in the Courts.
“People are now willing to come into the department and give their report. Their statements are collected and the investigative process begins. One of the things that encourages the citizens to report, is the fact that they are able to get feedback on the cases that they report,” she explains.
The Internal Affairs Anti-corruption Division deals with acts of corruption by members of the JCF, made through reports of acts of corruption through the Complaints Division or through the Performance Auditing and Monitoring Bureau.
Superintendent Wilson says the Bureau conducts audits, “to see if they (members) are adhering to the standards of the Force, the rules, the regulations, the policies and procedures governing good police administration. This division is helping to curtail incidents of misconduct”.
The Internal Affairs Anti-corruption Division and the Performance Auditing and Monitoring Bureau are two of the six distinct departments, established under the PSB, which Commissioner Lucius Thomas has described as “crucial” to on-going efforts to build a professional Force.
The other four are: Internal Affairs Complaints, Internal Affairs Bureau of Special Investigation, and Corporate Planning, Research and Development Divisions and the Legal Affairs Department.
The Internal Affairs Complaints Division, which was established under the Complaints Act, deals with misconduct, such as poor service, complaints of abuse, domestic violence, and neglect of duty.
“They focus specifically on those aspects of internal investigations and once that is completed, the files are prepared and a copy is sent to the Police Public Complaints Authority (PPCA) as well as the Commissioner of Police for his ruling, or depending on the seriousness of the case, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for a ruling,” Superintendent Wilson explains.
“Once this is done, if it is a criminal procedure, the necessary systems will be put in place and the person arrested and charged and all the procedures relative to the member arrested and charged, takes place,” she tells JIS News.
Meanwhile, the Internal Affairs Bureau of Special Investigation, which was established by an Executive Order of the Government, focuses on the use of force, involving firearms; and public sector corruption. “They have to do a criminal and administrative investigation to determine whether the shooting is one that has criminal elements, or if it needs to review the whole administrative process as it relates to the use of firearms, care and handling by members of the JCF,” Superintendent Wilson informs.
“These divisions under the PSB seek to highlight and ensure that misconduct and other illegal acts by members of the organisation are appropriately dealt with, and that people can be willing and trust and respect the organization to come to the various departments to report these acts, and be protected at the same time,” she says.
The Corporate Planning, Research and Development Division deals with the reform and modernization programme of the JCF, while the Legal Affairs Department assists the JCF with case preparations as well as assist members with legal advice.
“This department is headed by trained Attorneys-at-Law and these persons are members of the Force who have studied at reputable institutions such as the Norman Manley Law School,” she points out. Superintendent Wilson says the feedback from the public is very good. “We are getting support and I think our citizens have become very intolerant of any act of misconduct by members of the JCF,” she adds. She notes that this is highlighted by the number of reports that have come to the Internal Affairs Anti-corruption Division.
Several pieces of legislation are being re-examined to support the work of the PSB, Superintendent Wilson says, such as the Proceeds of Crime Act.
“When criminals are taken in, their property is confiscated, so the same should go for us,” she emphasizes, adding that, “if after investigation, it is found that personal gain was acquired through the act of corrupt practices and ill will, then I think the same should apply to us as members of the organization. That needs to get on stream”. She says other initiatives, such as the Witness Protection Programme, have enabled the PSB to more efficiently carry out its work, “so that when people report a case, and if for any reason we feel or know or have evidence to show that they have been threatened not to give evidence, or not to assist in the investigation any further, and whether or not they are being offered compensation not to testify in court, we have been able to access the Witness Protection Programme to protect these individuals”.
Superintendent Wilson informs that revision of the Constabulary Force Act is being sought to put in provisions, giving the Commissioner more autonomy to remove persons from the system who have brought the Force into disrepute.
For 2006, Superintendent Wilson says the modernization process will continue, with particular emphasis on building data bases and procuring software. “We need things like adequate supply of computers to ensure that we have an effective database system to collate, analyse and present data on individuals over a period of time. We need sufficient data to give us a warning signal. We are looking at getting software and other basic equipment to help strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of these internal departments,” she says.
This effort is being supported by the Jamaican Government with assistance from countries such as the United Kingdom, which over the years has lent its expertise and personnel to the JCF. When Commissioner Thomas launched the JCF’s Corporate Strategy for 2005 to 2008 in March 2005, a $7.8 billion budget was projected to assist in all areas, while the Professional Standards Branch saw a budget of some $10 million.
“If we can correct some of the things that are happening in the organisation as it relates to misconduct and build back the image that has been tarnished, I think we will be able to make a good dent in criminal activity and build that trust and respect that the Jamaican citizen so badly needs from us. If we can achieve that in the long term, we will be able to achieve some success. However, in the short term, we are looking at things that can be effective as it relates to data-gathering and intelligence,” Superintendent Wilson says.
The JCF Anti-Corruption Strategy was launched in October last year under the theme: ‘Confronting Corruption’. The goals of the Strategy include leadership and supervision for standards compliance; improved communication network within the JCF; gathering of intelligence; recruitment, education and training of JCF members; corruption prevention; and investigation.
A handbook on the new Strategy has been prepared and made available by the Professional Standards Branch.
Corruption as defined by the publication, consists of acts which involve: the misuse of police authority for personal gain; any activity of a police employee, which comprises or has the potential to compromise his/her ability to enforce the law or to provide other services impartially; the protection of illicit activities from police enforcement, whether or not the member’s involvement is promoting the business of one person, whilst discouraging that of another person. Corruption is divided into two categories: corruption which influences the course of justice, and criminal dishonesty.
According to the handbook, the first category includes: requesting or accepting bribes for not opposing bail or for not bringing charges; making arrangements with unknown criminals to protect them for personal gain; falsifying or fabricating evidence to obtain conviction, planning evidence, or use of brutality to extract confessions. The second category covers: theft from premises under police surveillance; appropriation of parts of the proceeds of theft; appropriation of parts of or carelessness with prisoners’ property; suppression of evidence on behalf of defendants; and obtaining any pecuniary or other benefit by reason of the use of uniform or office of a policeman/woman.
Superintendent Wilson urges citizens not a turn a blind eye to acts of misconduct. “The police cannot be effective if we do not have the support of the citizens. When there is misconduct and you know within your heart that it is a misconduct, do not become fearful, do not turn your back on it,” she stresses.
“Help us to confront corruption and build back the image of the Force,” Superintendent Wilson urges.Persons who have encountered or know of acts of corruption or misconduct may make reports by calling toll free 1-888-1-STOP IT or 1-888-4- PROTEC. They may also contact the anti-corruption division by calling the straight lines: 967- 4347 or 967- 0612/ 922 -5431/ 922-8488 for the Complaints Division.