Saturday, 11 February 2023 13:37

INDECOM repeats call for police body-worn cameras

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he Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) is repeating its call for all members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) on operation, to be equipped with body-worn cameras.

The Commission has repeated the call in its fourth quarter report for 2022, highlighting the growing number of persons being shot and killed or injured by the police, who did not have a weapon.

“This single operational feature (wearing a body camera) would do much to further enhance the necessary transparency and accountability of the police service, and the call is a repeated refrain within this 4th Quarter Report,” said INDECOM Commissioner, Hugh Faulkner.

Recommendations for the use of Body Worn Cameras remain a core requisition mooted by the Commission, over many years, and a substantive response would be welcomed by many said Faulkner.

“Such equipment can only enhance the evidence-gathering process across the spectrum of policing operations, allay public concerns of alleged abuses, ensure security for police officers, support traffic enforcement breaches and change the policing landscape with regard to police-civilian encounters and reported police shooting encounters,” the report added.

According to the report, a total of 229 people were shot by the police in 2022. Of that number, 134 died. Of those shot and killed, 91 firearms were recovered while ten firearms were seized from among the 95 who were shot and injured.

Fourteen weapons that were not firearms (mostly bladed weapons) were recovered from those who were fatally shot, while similar type weapons were recovered from 22 of those who were shot and injured.

Of note, according to the report, no firearm or any other weapon was recovered from 29 of those who were killed and from 63 of those who were shot and injured.

“The Commission reports that the absence of a recovered firearm, or other weapon, continues to remain a troubling feature of both fatal and non-fatal shooting incidents and can only contribute to the perception of excessive or disproportionate use of force being utilised, when other tactics could be considered and deployed - particularly, where no firearm is reported as present,” said the report.

“This issue creates community distrust in the police service and does little to lessen the significant concerns, frequently expressed, of excessive use of force being deployed against unarmed persons,” it added.

INDECOM explained that weapons described as “other than a firearm”, included; machetes, knives, and an assortment of other implements to include bottles, pieces of wood, stones and a pair of scissors.

It said “this recurring feature of the ‘absent firearm’ or other weapon type not being recovered, in security force encounters, remains to be addressed”.

The Commission cited that:

· In 2020 of the 92 people shot and injured, 55 or 60 per cent did not have any weapon recovered from them when shot.

· In 2021 a similar trend is noted. Of the 68 shot and injured, 41 people had no weapon and were wholly unarmed when shot.

· 2022 sees the same situation whereby 63 of the 95 people shot and injured were incidents where no weapons were recovered – an increase to 66 per cent.

“Thus in the 36-month period, (2020-2022), of the 255 people shot and injured, 159 of them did not have any firearm or other weapon recovered from them - some 65 per cent of the total.

Said INDECOM: “It is of note that, in the majority of cases where the shooting victim survives, no weapon is recovered, whereas if they are fatally wounded, a weapon is recovered. An analysis of the ten persons who were shot and injured in 2022, and reportedly found with a firearm, shows that only one person admitted he had a firearm. Whilst this is, perhaps, unsurprising, it is a feature which is repeatedly expressed”.

The report also noted that among the persons shot and injured were two men who suffered from mental health problems, one of whom was not charged, and the other had his case for possession of a firearm dismissed at trial.

“All the others deny the accusation that they had a firearm or fired at the security forces, some of whom await trial. A recently observable feature is the number of trials of persons accused by officers of firearm possession being dismissed by the courts. This is an issue which would be further remedied by the deployment of Body Worn Cameras for all operational officers, and from which independent evidence could be secured to satisfy the courts and allay the doubts as to the veracity of the security force evidence,” said INDECOM.

Last modified on Saturday, 11 February 2023 14:28