Almost 180 new complaints against security forces, DCS, says INDECOM

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Almost 180 new complaints against security forces, DCS, says INDECOM

BY ALPHEA SAUNDERS
Senior staff reporter
saundersa@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

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THE Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) says it received 177 new complaints against the security forces and the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) between October 1 and December 31 last year.

According to INDECOM's fourth quarterly report for 2019, the majority of those complaints were against the police — 149 — while 21 were against the DCS and seven against the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF). Three of the complaints were made jointly against the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the JDF, and there were three deaths in custody complaints.

The Year in Review report was tabled in the House of Representatives yesterday.

The commission said there were 197 categories of complaints from the 177 incidents reported for the period.

The top five categories of complaints for the quarter included 83 assaults, 49 discharge of firearms, 17 fatal shootings, 14 shooting injuries, and seven threats.

Kingston and St Andrew had the highest fatalities with five deaths, while St Ann and St Catherine recorded three each, Hanover and St James recorded two each, St Thomas, St Elizabeth, Manchester, and Clarendon recorded one each, and Westmoreland, Portland and St Mary had no fatalities.

However, all parishes had complaints, with Kingston and St Andrew recording 60 complaints and Hanover and St Elizabeth recording the least, with five each.

According to INDECOM, 86 people were shot and killed for the year, 51 fewer than 2018, and, overall, 169 people were killed or injured, 59 fewer than in 2018.

“[Last year] 2019 has witnessed a significant and important reduction in fatal shooting incidents by the security forces, primarily the JCF,” INDECOM noted.

The commission outlined that for the year, there were 120 days (32 per cent of total days) when the security forces discharged their weapon, causing death or injury, resulting in 169 citizens being either shot or injured, but that these days do not include “discharge of firearm” cases in which no person was reported injured. This compares to 2018 figures of 147 days and 159 days for 2017.

INDECOM noted that off-duty shooting incidents still account for a significant proportion of use of deadly force events.

“Numerically, off-duty shooting incidents remain relatively static but varies as a percentage, dependent upon the annual shooting incidents,” the report said.

The commission said it is concerned about excessive use of force in the continuing absence of firearms in 32 per cent of those killed in such incidents. INDECOM said it further challenges these accounts that all gunmen were firing at security forces.

“The absence of recovered firearms extends to other fatal and non-fatal shooting incidents. All police accounts of shooting incidents, whether involving a dead or injured person, report that either a firearm or other deadly weapon was present, or suspected to be present, at the time of the incident, which justified the use of deadly force,” INDECOM said.

The commission said testimony from injured individuals, forensic recovery and closed-circuit television, indicate a contradictory account of these incidents.

“The absence of recovered firearms remains a significant feature in JCF shooting reports. Previous INDECOM reports provide much detail on this issue. It remains the case that a significant proportion of shot or injured persons were either completely unarmed, or in possession of an implement other than a firearm at the time of being shot,” the report outlined.

INDECOM pointed out that the statistics for all individuals shot (killed or injured) over the past three years who had no firearm has remained relatively constant, at over a third of those shot by the security forces.

In 2019 the number of people reportedly without a firearm at the time of being shot increased to 42 per cent, the commission said.


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