INDECOM’s Ego Checked

By Contributor Conrad Tucker

Last Friday, the Appeals Court ruled that INDECOM does not have the right to arrest or charge police offi­cers. For cur­rent mem­bers of the JCF and for­mer offi­cers alike, this rul­ing is like a breath of fresh air. Since the incep­tion of the INDECOM Act, police offi­cers have com­plained that they have been treat­ed unfair­ly by its mem­bers. There are even reports that offi­cers were dis­armed in pub­lic and some­times bul­lied to give state­ments to its inves­ti­ga­tors.

The ram­i­fi­ca­tions of the Appeals Court’s rul­ing is vital for the future of INDECOM, but more impor­tant­ly for the cas­es pend­ing, and for oth­er cas­es where offi­cers have been con­vict­ed? Does this mean that those cas­es will be dis­missed and all the con­vic­tions over­turned? Does this mean INDECOM will cease and desist from inves­ti­gat­ing offi­cers and stop bring­ing charges against them? The Appeal Court’s rul­ing dis­tinct­ly states that they have no author­i­ty to car­ry out their man­date as stip­u­lat­ed by the cur­rent law.

However, they like any cit­i­zen can arrest any­one under Common Law. Does that mean they will arrest offi­cers under Common Law, to show that they still have the pow­er to car­ry out their man­date? Arresting offi­cers under Common Law would be con­trary to the INDECOM Act, as they are man­dat­ed to arrest offend­ing offi­cers not as a pri­vate cit­i­zen but as an offi­cer of the com­mis­sion, which the Appeals Court ruled against. Based on the rul­ing by the Appeals Court, INDECOM’s man­date is, in essence, lim­it­ed to being an over­sight body.

They should only be able to mon­i­tor or inves­ti­gate the actions of the police, but bring­ing charges should be under the purview of the DPP. So, what role would the DPP play in this saga? That is the answer I am eager­ly wait­ing to have. The Prime Minister at the last JLP annu­al gen­er­al meet­ing hint­ed at mak­ing changes to the INDECOM Act, because he felt that they are hold­ing offi­cers hostage and are neg­a­tive­ly impact­ing the morale of the men and women of the JCF. The con­sen­sus by many Jamaicans is that offi­cers are afraid of charges been brought against them by INDECOM, and so, they are reluc­tant to put their lives on the line to con­front dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals.

If this is true, and this writ­ers believes it is, then we have seen how embold­ened crim­i­nals have become. The blood­let­ting has con­tin­ued unabat­ed­ly through­out most of the island, because crim­i­nals are aware that offi­cers are not risk­ing their lives to com­bat them, thanks to INDECOM. There are numer­ous videos cir­cu­lat­ing on social media, show­ing offi­cers being assault­ed, ver­bal­ly abused, some­times left with their uni­forms torn and are ridiculed by these thugs, much to the delight of the peo­ple they risk their lives dai­ly to pro­tect.

In many of these instances the offi­cer don’t even retal­i­ate fear­ing that if they do, INDECOM will come to inves­ti­gate and per­haps bring charges against them. As we know, cops are abhor­rent­ly under­paid in Jamaica, so most offi­cer can’t afford to hire a lawyer and that is a major fac­tor why they do not react to the assaults met­ed out on them. Maybe this is why The Prime Minister has promised to set up a fund to help offi­cers pay for legal fees after being charged by this pho­ny orga­ni­za­tion.

The com­ing days and months will be sig­nif­i­cant as we await INDECOM’s appeal to the Privy Council. But yes­ter­day’s rul­ing should sure­ly improve the morale of the men and women of the JCF, and is an impor­tant win not only for the offi­cers, but for all law-abid­ing peo­ple of Jamaica. The offi­cers will be more encour­aged to per­form their duties with­out the fear of being hunt­ed and charged by these zeal­ous pri­ma don­nas, whose sole pur­pos­es are to humil­i­ate the peo­ple who are pro­tect­ing them from crim­i­nals. Jamaica has myr­i­ads of eco­nom­ic and social issues that have plunged the coun­try into chaos, result­ing in a chron­ic prob­lem with crime.

Jamaica has the dubi­ous dis­tinc­tion of hav­ing one of the high­est homi­cide rates on the plan­et and def­i­nite­ly in the Western Hemisphere. However, the coun­try is still a vibrant democ­ra­cy and unlike some coun­tries that set up kan­ga­roo courts, which try and imprison their oppo­nents, Jamaicans of any stripe can go to court to seek jus­tice. This is exact­ly what tran­spired with mem­bers of the JCF, from gazetted offi­cers to District Constables chal­leng­ing the INDECOM Act and win­ning.

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