Jamaican police to wear recording devices in move to ensure transparency

(Jamaica Observer) Peter Bunting yesterday said that select police units will start wearing body cameras soon, even as concerns are being expressed over the allegations of extrajudicial killings and professional misconduct by members of the constabulary.

Making the disclosure at the weekly post-Cabinet press briefing at Jamaica House in St Andrew, the national security minister said the project to deploy body-worn cameras for select Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) units is scheduled to commence roll-out in the second half of this year.

“The purpose of this project is to improve the collection of evidence of criminal activity in an effort to prosecute and reduce such activity, improve the transparency of JCF activities when interacting with the public, to encourage JCF officers to act in accordance with the force’s professional standards to include the appropriate use of force, and to create a record to protect JCF officers from unfair allegations of violations of JCF professional standards,” Bunting told journalists.

“The Government of Jamaica is committed to reducing the level of crime and violence that has taken a terrible toll on this nation. As part of this commitment we will be taking all necessary steps to ensure that the JCF becomes one of the most trusted and respected institutions in Jamaica,” he said.

Minister Bunting made the disclosure following comments he made on probes being conducted by the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) into allegations of police killings in the Clarendon police division.

“One of the group norms we must change is the level of police fatal shootings,” Bunting said.

He said he was briefed this Wednesday by INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams on that agency’s investigations into a number of alleged murders over a period of years in the Clarendon police division.

“I have issued directives to the commissioner of police to take immediate steps to address compliance with the Jamaica Constabulary [Force] Use of Force Policy and the INDECOM Act as well as to institute new measures to improve accountability,” he told the media.

The national security minister, however, refrained from divulging further information, noting that “the investigations of these alleged extrajudicial killings are at a sensitive stage”.

“However, the Administration views the issue of extra-judicial killings with the gravest concern and is committed to the police being accountable for their actions, and that every use of lethal force must be independently investigated, explained and justified,” he said.

In the interim, Minister Bunting said he has instructed Police Commissioner Owen Ellington to complete and promulgate in the JCF’s Force Orders, within the next few weeks, protocols with INDECOM to include the following: the arrest policy, incidence scene preservation, immediate notification of INDECOM whenever there are shootings, handling of the ballistic submissions, sharing of the outcomes of administrative reviews, ensuring the independence of investigations of officers involved in incidents and submission of officer statements.

Last week, INDECOM investigators zoned in on the May Pen Police Station in Clarendon where they arrested and charged a policeman with murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Firearms and several rounds of ammunition were reportedly seized.

In a subsequent release, the commission said it had been tracking the conduct of a number of police officers in Area Three (St Elizabeth, Manchester and Clarendon).

 

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