Give INDECOM the teeth it needs

Give INDECOM the teeth it needs


Wednesday, June 24, 2020

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Dear Editor,

If there were ever a time that we needed the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) in Jamaica, it is now.

Research and reviews have proven that police brutality, extrajudicial killings and corruption have plagued Jamaican policing for decades. This is why INDECOM needs to be strengthened through the nation's laws and given the necessary resources to function effectively. An independent police oversight body is needed or else poor Jamaicans, black Jamaicans, in particular, will continue to be thrown down by the Jamaican police force with impunity.

The fact that the United States of America is now squabbling over the passing of similar legislation to curtail the use of excessive force by their police officers is telling. This should be our cue that INDECOM is necessary if the Government is serious about safeguarding the human rights and dignity of poor Jamaicans.

There is no denying that there are two different types of policing practices in Jamaica. It is sad to say that these two practices are diametrically opposed. One upholds the human rights of some Jamaicans and the other tramples on these same rights when it comes to other Jamaicans.

If we are frank, we can safely say that policing in Jamaica is class- and race-based because both constructs are socially intertwined. The idea that Jamaicans are all the same is just a patently false ideal, especially when it comes to policing.

I hope that Jamaican politicians are paying attention to what is happening in the USA. They cannot continue to be tone-deaf to the earnest cries of grieving Jamaican families and the frequent calls for justice from their disenfranchised constituents. They should act in good faith to ensure that all Jamaicans are protected equally under the law by passing legislation to give INDECOM the teeth it needs to ensure accountability, transparency, and equity in policing. A strengthened INDECOM is a first step to approaching the matter of police reform in Jamaica and addressing postal code discrimination in policing. Addressing these issues at this opportune time would be a great gesture to demonstrate that all lives matter in Jamaica and secure a well-intentioned legacy of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding.

The time has come in Jamaica for a serious conversation about how policing is performed and how human rights are treated based on postal codes. The lived realities of Jamaicans who are unable to encloak themselves with privilege are dire. Their doors are kicked in without search warrants, they are beaten mercilessly by security forces, searched, detained, arrested, and even murdered. These are not isolated incidents. They play out daily in inner-city communities across Jamaica. The violence exacted on Jamaicans of a certain social class at the hands of the security forces is brutal, rendering those affected voiceless. In such situations it is evident that the voiceless needs a voice, and INDECOM provides this megaphone.

The images playing out on cable television across the USA are sadly nostalgic for many Jamaicans. What we need now in Jamaica is the alarm, outrage, and action by politicians to make these wrongs right by strengthening INDECOM and tackling police reform with common sense legislation.

Twenty-first century policing should mean serving and protecting all Jamaicans in keeping with the Jamaican Constitution.

Ralston Chamberlain is a Jamaican educator wrting from Toronto, Canada. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or

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