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Time for an independent police complaint commission?

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Posted: Wednesday, August 17, 2022. 10:19 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: While separately condemning what he called the “seeking of political mileage” by the Opposition United Democratic Party concerning his leadership, Minister of Home Affairs Kareem Musa seems to agree that the time has come for an independent body to be appointed to investigate instances of complaints against Police.

While the Department has its own internal investigative body in the Professional Standards Branch and an overall Legal Affairs and Compliance Unit, citizens with complaints against police officers most often have recourse to the Ombudsman, a position still currently vacant, or else file suit in the courts.

In the context of discussing the necessity of outside help to investigate the Derrick Uh case, former Minister of National Security and Attorney General Michael Peyrefitte said on Monday that we may believe we have come to be “too fraternal” a society when it comes to such investigations and that an independent body is needed, even with its faults: “Maybe there needs to be a permanent body in place to investigate crimes within the Police Department. I know Jamaica has tried it with INDECOM – it doesn’t work [there] either – and so as long as you are from the same community, it is going to be difficult for it to work. According to Donald Trump, the FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation] is no better. So, you have to look at these solutions – maybe we need more elections. Maybe we have an elected group of people that is responsible for the police commission and BDF, so they are in charge of promotions and things like that. Maybe that is what you need, but that will become political too. At some point as a people, we have to trust ourselves to solve our own problems.”

Musa largely concurs: “That is something that I am certainly open to looking at…it’s something that I believe the family of Laddie Gillett has suggested as well, so that is something that we can look forward to moving forward, setting up this advisory committee to look at instances where there are allegations against particular police officers.” He also noted that aggrieved families have recently been given the option to allow for an overseer in particular cases, citing those of Allyson Major, Nestor Vasquez Jr and others and this takes it a few steps further. In the case of Derrick Uh, a police officer was chosen, but there was the option of an attorney, a private investigator or others. He also agreed to look into the cost of such an appointment.

 

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