JIS News

Minister of State in the Ministry of National Security, Senator Arthur Williams has said that work was proceeding apace on plans to establish a single independent authority to investigate instances of abuse to citizens by members of the security forces.
Speaking at the official launch of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority (PCOA) in Montego Bay on Feb. 28 he noted that over the years, there had been an increasing number of complaints by civilians about the behaviour of members of the security forces, particularly the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
“One of the persistent complaints from the public is the lack of confidence in the police investigating complaints against the police. This is not only a Jamaican phenomenon. During most of the twentieth century, police departments throughout the United States and Europe, suffered from the same complaint. This began to change however in the 1960’s, with the determination of civil society, to subject the police to greater scrutiny,” Senator Williams pointed out.
He observed that internal changes within police departments in those countries designed to strengthen the accountability of police forces, were undertaken. The main ones included the internal processes that were employed to handle citizens’ complaints about questionable police conduct. Senator Williams noted that the prevailing view was that external oversight had to be employed in order to ensure transparency in the oversight of police actions.
“We have in recent years employed a similar process through the Police Civilian Oversight Authority … immediately after taking office, the Prime Minister gave instructions for work to proceed towards the establishment of a single independent authority to investigate instances of police abuse,” he said.
“Accordingly, several institutions such as the Police Civilian Oversight Authority, the Police Public Complaints Authority, the Bureau of Special Investigations and the Office of Professional Responsibility are being reviewed, in the context of the establishment of a single authority,” the State Minister informed.
Alluding to recent statistics which indicated the number of persons killed by the police and the government’s desire to have significant reduction in these figures, Senator Williams stressed that the authorities “do not accept that the police are always wrong and that every time people claim police brutality, that this is so”.
“But in carrying out their duties, they (the police) must show respect for citizens and must not abuse the citizen’s rights to privacy or the right to peacefully enjoy their property. The rights of the citizens must be jealously guarded,” he asserted.
Senator Williams added that if rampant crime and violence is to be effectively tackled while ensuring that the basic human and civil rights are protected, then there must be trust and cooperation between the police and the public in order to commit to a peaceful, law-abiding, democratic society.
Commissioner of Police, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin and Opposition Spokesman on Security, Dr. Peter Phillips also participated in the official launch of the PCOA, which was established in 2006 with the main aim of strengthening accountability of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, and engendering increased public confidence in the police.

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