Cops cleared

A marginal decline in fatal shootings by the police since the start of this year has not satisfied the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), which remains concerned that Jamaica is number one in the world for police-involved fatalities per capita.

INDECOM is also suspicious that in the majority of cases, no illegal gun was taken from the victims of shootings by members of the security forces.

On Wednesday, INDECOM Deputy Commissioner Hamish Campbell told a media briefing that up to the end of May, 41 people had been shot dead by members of the security forces in Jamaica, a shade below the 42 killed over the same period last year.

Campbell noted that all 42 people killed from January to May last year were killed by members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), but that this year, five of the fatal shootings were by members of the Jamaica Defence Force and one was by a member of the Department of Correctional Services.

According to Campbell, while the numbers reflect a decrease in fatal shootings by the police, a major worry remains.

“What is of significance though, and it is repeated time and again and continues to be an extraordinary feature, is the absence of firearms in these fatal shootings. Of the 70 people either shot and killed or shot and injured in 2020, only 28 guns were recovered. Despite the claims, the assertions released by the security forces that the people they were shooting at were armed with guns, the evidence provides a contrary picture,” said Campbell.

He added that INDECOM investigators are not finding any weapons on these scenes, or any spent shells to match any other weapons.

But, responding to the INDECOM deputy commissioner yesterday, Police Commissioner Antony Anderson noted that the majority of investigations by the commission in the recent past has cleared the police of any wrongdoing in these fatal shootings.

“Last year figures were the lowest fatal shootings rate [by the police] in Jamaica for 40 years, and this year is trending just about a similar way or a little below,” Anderson told a media briefing, while making it clear that he was not in a position to respond to the claim that Jamaica has the highest number of police- involved fatalities per capita.

“If that is so, and I haven’t factchecked what INDECOM said in respect to that, and it may be high in respect to the world, but so is our homicide rate, particularly with the use of the gun.

“But, perhaps the more pertinent question would be: Of those police fatal shootings, how many of them are questionable and how many of them are recommended for criminal charges?” added Anderson.

He noted that last year INDECOM completed investigations into 82 fatal shootings involving members of the JCF, and recommended four of them for criminal charges.

“Of those four, two of those fatalities were domestic issues and not in the pursuit of police work. So, in effect, if you look at the number of persons charged in these fatal shootings, it was two… for police-involved shootings while on duty,” said Anderson.

“Now that tells a different story. These are not my numbers, these are INDECOM numbers. Now that suggests that, in at least 78 of 82 cases, what is written there is that, ‘no charge or disciplinary action recommended’,” the police commissioner added.

In its latest quarterly report released on Wednesday, INDECOM provided its findings for 38 fatal shootings by members of the JCF.

In 35 of the cases, the commission reported that it concluded and “respectfully recommends that no criminal charges be laid or disciplinary action be taken relative to the fatal shooting”.

In one case, where a civilian eyewitness refuted the statement of police, INDECOM recommended that he be charged, while in the other two cases, the commission recommended that “the matter be forwarded to the Special Coroner to determine whether an inquest ought to be held”.

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