THE Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has clapped back at criticisms made about the agency by Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the Jamaica Labour Party’s 74th annual conference at the National Arena on Sunday.
Addressing thousands of Labourites, Holness said he believed that sometimes “INDECOM goes too far, and places our police officers on the retreat”.
He made the remark while announcing that his Administration would be seeking to strike a balance and motivate members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force by putting additional measures in place to fight crime, including funds to pay the legal expenses of policemen and women accused by INDECOM of wrongdoing in dealing with the public.
Yesterday, in a release, INDECOM, headed by Commissioner Terrence Williams outlined a list of what it termed “myths” that continue to dog the agency, such as that it is overzealous in carrying out its duties, pointing out that in the first quarter of this year the recommendations for the 234 of the 249 cases that were completed was that no criminal charges and no disciplinary action should be brought against the officers involved. INDECOM noted that charges were only recommended in four cases and disciplinary action in eight.
Additionally, INDECOM said, in the second quarter of 2017, of the 241 cases completed only in six of these cases were charges recommended, while 222 were dismissed with no criminal charge or no disciplinary action. “In the third quarter, 207 cases were completed, of that total, charges were recommended for two cases; disciplinary action in 12 cases and in 193 of these cases, no criminal charges and no disciplinary action were recommended,” the commission said.
INDECOM further contended that it does not take away the rights of police officers by charging those who exercise their right not to self-incriminate, as the legislation governing the commission does not compel self-incrimination. “Whenever a member of the security forces is asked to give a statement he or she is always reminded that they can refuse to give self-incriminatory information. Eight police officers were unsuccessful in their case brought against INDECOM on this point. The Constitutional Court ruled that the section of the INDECOM Act which speaks to police officers giving statements is not in breach of their constitutional rights,” the statement said.
The commission also dismissed the long-standing argument by members of the constabulary and in the public sphere that it is demoralising the police. “No police officer who is acting within the law should be afraid or feel demoralised by INDECOM carrying out its mandate. No police officer who is using force proportionately when carrying out their duties needs to fear an INDECOM investigation as the commission does not seek to punish members of the security forces who are carrying out their duties lawfully, only those who do so unlawfully,” said the release.