Impact of INDECOM: Changing a culture of impunity

The recognition by the Government of Jamaica that independent oversight of the nation’s Security Forces is essential was the beginning of a change in Jamaican culture and security of citizens. The introduction of the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) Act and the resultant authority of the Commission would have greater influence on policing, as culpable and discreditable conduct would be exposed. Impact and success should therefore not be measured by convictions, as we do not provide oversight and investigate to charge. We investigate to know and explain what happened to all concerned, with the expectation that through our reports and meetings, lessons will be learnt, there will be improvement in conduct and practices toward the professionalization of our security forces and where there is liability, recommended sanctions implemented.

When considering impact, think on these things:

  • Have dangerous practices and procedures that we report on decreased?
  • Can complainants be assured that there was a thorough, impartial, transparent and objective analysis based on complaints, public concerns raised or evidence uncovered?

Since full operations began in 2011, how much change has been achieved?

 

Overall reduction in police involved shootings

The critical effect on the reduction in police involved shootings began with the introduction of INDECOM’s operations in April 2011. The three-year period prior to INDECOM (2007-2009) recorded 733 deaths. The three year period after INDECOM (2011-2013), recorded 687 deaths, and the following three year period, with the establishment of working protocols and awareness sessions between the agencies, 2014-2016, recorded 327 deaths. This represents a significant 53% reduction between the latter two periods. Though, there was an increase in deaths at 168 in 2017, the annual total of below 200 continues. In 2019, we recorded the lowest deaths by Security Forces in two decades, with 86.

The enforcement of issues raised by the Commission with the leadership has been noticeable with the change in behavior and practices.

Year Fatal Shootings
2010
2011 210
2012 219
2013 258
2014 115
2015 101
2016 111
2017 168
2018 137
2019 86

 

Reduction in fatalities from planned police operations

Planned police operations, where fatalities occur, have previously been a significant contributor to the total fatalities per annum by the police force.  The introduction of the ‘post event’ questionnaire/evaluation for police Commanders, to examine and assess the level of planning in such operations, has been implemented since 2015.

There has been a continued, reduction in the number of police related fatalities arising from planned police operations.  Oversight has contributed to a greater care and compliance of the JCF’s own Use of Force policy and INDECOM’s monitoring of the issues, have effected some changes, as we seek to ensure that such operations result in arrest, not fatalities.

Observation of the six year period 2014 – 2019 shows the continuing decline in security force fatal shootings arising from planned police operations. Up to 2015, such fatal shootings accounted annually for between 33%-37% of all fatalities. 2016 saw the first marked reduction in the number of fatalities arising from planned police operations, when the proportion of such deaths accounted for a quarter, falling to 25%. In 2017 they were less than one fifth. 2019 has seen the number of deaths occurring during PPO’s accounting for less than 12%. A significant change.

Year Total Fatal shootings
Planned Op where fatality occurred
Total killed during Planned Ops % of total shootings
2014 115 36 38 33.04%
2015 101 33 38 37.62%
2016 111 21 28 25.22%
2017 168 30 41 24.40%
2018 137 17 20 14.59%
2019 86 9 10 11.62%

 

Suicide prevention in juvenile correctional facilities

In 2012, Vanessa Wint, a ward at a Juvenile Correctional Centre allegedly committed suicide. Upon completion of our Commission’s Report in 2013, recommendations were made for suicide prevention protocols to be implemented to minimize and detect changes in behaviour.

Since 2012 to June 2018, there have been sixty-two (62) suicide attempts and two incidents of suicide of wards who were in the care of Department of Correctional Services (DCS). Both suicide incidents were investigated by INDECOM. The first, was in 2013 and occurred prior to the release of INDECOM’s recommendations following the death of Vanessa Wint. The circumstances surrounding this incident bore similar features with Vanessa’s death. This matter was referred to the Special Coroner. The second incident was in 2015. In this investigation, it is apparent that DCS had made changes in the way staff responded to the scene.