British agency reports big drop in

BY DESMOND ALLEN
Executive editor – special assignment
allend@jamaicaobserver.com

Friday, September 21, 2018

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BRITAIN'S Department for International Development (DFID) has reported a 75 per cent drop in suspicious shootings by Jamaican police, a figure which appears to have fallen below the news radar in the country's high-crime environment.

DFID, in a brief prepared for senior journalists hosted by British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad, marking his first year in Jamaica Wednesday, said suspicious police shootings had seen a reduction from 60 per cent to 15 per cent since 2015.

The eight-year-old Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has claimed over the years that its pressure on police shooters had caused a gradual drop in the number of such shootings and killings.

According to London-based human rights organisation Amnesty International, since 2000, cops in Jamaica have allegedly killed more than 3,000 people — “mostly young men living in marginalised communities”. INDECOM reported that there were 165 police-related killings last year, adding that no firearms were recovered in 40 per cent of the cases.

Neither organisation provided figures for the number of cops killed by gunmen in the period.

Earlier this year, Prime Minister Andrew Holness also attributed the reduction in police killings over the years to the introduction of INDECOM, describing the agency as “a very effective public institution”.

However, Holness, at the same time, questioned whether the oversight body had gone overboard in carrying out its job, amid claims that cops had been reluctant to carry out their duties for fear of pressure from INDECOM.

DFID is among international donors helping to fund INDECOM. The others include the United States Department of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement, the European Union, and the Canadian International Development Agency.

Under its five-year Caribbean Anti-Corruption Programme (CACP) — which ends this year — DFID has pumped 17 million “to strengthen the capability of Jamaica and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States to combat serious and organised crime and major corruption by building the capacity of select institutions”.

DFID Country Representative in Jamaica David Osborne, supporting High Commissioner Ahmad, told the journalists he was happy with the progress being made under the CACP, even while acknowledging that more work was necessary.

“We are providing support to the Independent Commission of Investigations in Jamaica to hold public officials accountable for an abuse of power,” Osborne said. The DFID funds are also helping to: strengthen the capacity of the Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Agency, “to combat major corruption and serious and organised crime”; support the Financial Investigation Division “to identify and investigate economic crime and recover assets acquired by corruption or organised crime”; support the Office of the Contractor General; and support the establishment of a new special court “for serious organised crime and major corruption cases”.

Through this programme the UK has provided an expert for the post of 'head of scenes of crime' in the Jamaica Constabulary Force; and supported work to improve legislative drafting through the Office of the Chief Parliamentary Counsel.

“Since 2015, the programme has helped partners arrest and charge 264 politically exposed persons, high-value targets and police officers for corrupt or criminal activities,” the DFID brief said, adding that it has also removed “significant amounts of money from the criminal economy in Jamaica and the Eastern Caribbean”.

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