INDECOM pleads to police chief to have cops wear body cameras

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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THE Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) has asked the police commissioner to ensure that members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) wear body cameras in planned operations, in order to reassure citizens, and assist the police in the event of an incident.

Concerns about the lack of use of body cameras by the police during planned operations were raised in INDECOM's 4th quarterly report for 2017, which was tabled in Parliament on March 8. According to the report an enquiry of the JCF “indicates that the police have not received any self-reporting of a recorded incident, which required any further action,”

Speaking to journalists at a press conference at INDECOM's Dumfries Road headquarters in Kingston yesterday, Commissioner Terrence Williams stated: “The commissioner of police ought to cause the force to operate in a way where when there is a planned operation that at least one member of that operation is wearing a body-worn camera. It gives a false sense of accountability to say oh yes we have body worn cameras, if you do not deploy them in the areas where they are most needed. The force which has questions surrounding its use of force needs to as much as possible put them on all officers who are likely to be involved in use of force incidents.

Williams argued that although fatal shootings from planned operations declined between October and December 2017 it was “puzzling” that out of the 30 such operations on none of these was an officer found wearing a camera. Forty-one persons died during those operations.

“We know the equipment was donated at some cost, it doesn't make sense you have them and you don't deploy them when they are most needed,” he insisted.

The national security Minister, in August 2016, announced that 120 body-worn cameras were to be deployed across six police divisions across Kingston and St Andrew as a part of measures to build trust between the public and the police. The divisions included St Andrew Central, St Andrew South, Kingston Eastern, Kingston Central and the Motorised Patrol and Traffic.

The project is a partnership between the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the United States Embassy.

Reinforcing William's arguments, Assistant INDECOM Commissioner Hamish Campbell stressed that one way of assessing police use of force whether it may or may not be excessive is the distinction between those who are killed and those who are injured. “There are considerably more people who are shot and killed than there are shot and injured. It is for the JCF to consider why that might be the case and then reflect on their patterns and practice. One element of that is the use of body-worn cameras. There are a number of shootings where the citizens and witnesses and complainants make observation that the account provided is not that given to us by the police,” he said.

He noted that INDECOM welcomes the use of body-worn cameras but that at this point neither the police nor INDECOM have received any report where a body-worn camera has aided the police to support its account or to support a complainant's account of misuse of force or abusive or aggressive behavior. “So we don't have any material on which to test its validity at this time… it is somewhat extraordinary that there hasn't been a single incident to be recorded which is of any merit,” he stated.

— Alphea Saunders




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