MONTEGO BAY, St James — Member of the United Kingdom House of Lords Baroness Nuala O'Loan has expressed alarm over the reported high number of fatal shootings by the Jamaican police.
"In this beautiful country, somebody is shot dead almost every day by the JCF (Jamaica Constabulary Force), whose role is to protect the citizenry," bemoaned Baroness O'Loan."
"There is an unparalleled level of police shootings in Jamaica," she added.
She cited figures in a 2002 paper presented by the local human rights group Jamaican for Justice, which showed that "police killings of civilians were running at around 150 a year."
"In the 10 years since then that number has almost doubled. In 2011 there were about 210 shootings, in 2012, 219 police fatal shootings and between January and June this year there were 147 fatal shootings by police," lamented Baroness O'Loan.
"What is happening? When men, women and children are dying in these numbers, shot by the police, it is clearly important to find out what is going on," she further argued.
Baroness O'Loan said she has worked across the world, even in places like Liberia and in Timor Leste when there was an attempt to assassinate the president, yet she has not seen police fatal shootings in the numbers as she has seen them here.
Baroness O'Loan, a former police ombudsman of Northern Ireland was speaking in Montego Bay over the weekend during an Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Open Day held at the Old Hospital Park.
She underscored the need for a thrust by INDECOM, to not only identify the cops involved in shootings, but also their commanders.
"They will need to see the intelligence or information which the police had before and after the shootings. My experience was that once the police concentrated on proper planning of operations; once they risk-assessed each planned operation and send police officers out -- briefed to use minimum force to carry out the arrests or searches -- the level of police violence dropped dramatically," Baroness O'Loan argued.
She noted also that proper proactive police management, modern intelligence-led policing, human rights compliant policing -- rather than just sending squads of heavily armed police officers out to do a job -- can save lives, and make people more trusting of the police.
"When that happens people support the police more and are prepared to come forward as witnesses, and then the police can do their job better," she said.
Among other measures she recommended was for Government to increase the staff at INDECOM.
"INDECOM needs more resources. They don't have enough investigators to do this work. They have only 37. I had 91 in a country with fewer fatal police shootings and a smaller geographical territory and I did not have enough," Baroness O'Loan argued, adding that civilians and members of the JCF should also report police officers involved in wrongdoing.