Columns

INDECOM - the new JCF investigative arm

KEN CHAPLIN

Tuesday, March 08, 2011    

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There's no doubt that the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has enormous powers. It replaces the Police Public Complaints Authority and will undertake investigations concerning actions of the security forces and other agents of the state that result in death or injury to people or the abuse of the rights of citizens and for connected matters.

INDECOM was established following prolonged public complaints that the Bureau of Special Investigations of the Jamaica Constabulary Force should not investigate wrongdoings committed by the security forces. The fact is that even if BSI does impartial and creditable investigations, the public will remain suspicious and distrustful and

will not be satisfied. On the other hand BSI has become the most hated branch of the force by their colleagues, because often it investigates, arrests and charges their colleagues for wrongdoings. Under the circumstances, the government took the right course in setting up INDECOM.

It would be inappropriate for me to discuss whether INDECOM has powers of arrest and filing charges because the matter is now before the Resident Magistrate's Court and the Supreme Court. There have also been differences between INDECOM and the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions as to whether INDECOM can arrest and file charges as it did in one case.

The crux of the matter is that INDECOM is apparently not satisfied with what appears to be an inordinately long time the DPP takes to rule on a particular case in which INDECOM is involved. But one has to consider the heavy volume of work at the Office the DPP. It seems to me that when INDECOM gets into full swing more prosecutors are going to be required at the Office of the DPP.

There also appears to be a strain between INDECOM and the BSI over some investigations. It seems that the most sensible course of action is for both INDECOM and BSI to work together, with INDECOM having an oversight on BSI

investigations. Full co-operation is essential between INDECOM and BSI. INDECOM is not now in a position to conduct all investigations, but as soon as it does it will take over fully. The BSI should be responsible for arrest and laying charges based on INDECOM's direction.

In fact the law states that INDECOM may manage, surpervise, direct and control any investigation carried out by the security forces or the relevant public body in relation to an incident where, in the opinion of the INDECOM, it is necessary to direct and oversee that investigation. Where INDECOM takes action it will have to notify the responsible head or responsible officer, as the case may be, and direct that no other action be taken until INDECOM has  completed its investigation.

The law creating INDECOM, a Commission of Parliament, is comprehensive and covers not only the Jamaica Constabulary Force, the Jamaica Defence Force and the Island Special Constabulary Force, but all rural police and parish special constables. It is headed by a commissioner, who is appointed by the Governor General, after consultation with the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition, from people of high integrity, who pass the qualification to hold office as a judge of the Supreme Court. Among the other staff there are to be five directors of

complaints, each of whom will be responsible for a regional office and for ensuring that investigations in relation to the relevant region are carried out under the regulations.

Of special interest to the public is the section of the regulations which states that INDECOM shall ensure that in its appointment of employees, due regard is paid to the desirability that such employees be able to function in an independent, impartial and objective manner, and without unduly close association with any of the security forces or public body likely to be the subject of investigation under the law.

The functions of INDECOM include conducting investigations, carrying out in furtherance of an investigation, and as INDECOM considers necessary or desirable, inspection of a relevant public body or relevant force, including records, weapons and buildings; periodic reviews of the disciplinary procedures applicable to the security forces and the special officials. The commission's functions also include taking such steps as are necessary to ensure that the responsible heads and responsible officers submit reports to INDECOM of incidents and complaints concerning the conduct of members of the security forces and special officials.

Complaints may be made to INDECOM by people who allege that the conduct of a member of the security forces or any specified official:

* resulted in the death of or injury to any persons or was intended or likely

to result in such death of injury

* involved sexual assault

* involved assault, including threats of harm, reprisals, or any

intimidatory acts or battery by the member or official

* resulted in damage to property or taking money or other property

* abused the rights of a citizen, in the opinion of INDECOM.

INDECOM has the power to require any persons to furnish in a manner and at such times as may be specified by the commission, information which, in the opinion of the commission, is relevant to any matter being investigated.

INDECOM is not subject to the direction and control of any person or authority.

These are but some of the regulations for the protection of the public from abuse by the security forces.

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