By Gavin Riley
Recent findings from the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) indicate that while fatal shooting incidents by members of the security forces are down, there is a greater need for non-lethal forms of policing.
Assistant Commissioner with INDECOM Hamish Campbell, speaking exclusively with Jamaica Today, said that for the period January 1 to August 31, 2018, the oversight agency has recorded 100 fatal shootings – a 10 per cent decrease when compared to the same period last year (when there were 111 fatal shooting incidents).
Campbell said that the downturn in deaths is a step in the right direction. However, the numbers of deaths were still a concern.
“We’re all very concerned but fatal shootings [so far] shows us a very slight downturn over the same period for 2017. If you compare shooting fatalities and shooting injuries over the same period, then there has been a small increase of five per cent,” he said.
This increase is shown in the number of overall incidents involving security forces to include non-fatal injuries – which has increased from 162 in the same period of 2017 (111 fatalities, 52 non-fatal) to 170 (100 fatalities, 70 non-fatal incidents) in the corresponding period this year.
Campbell told Jamaica Today that in light of the rise, INDECOM continues to implore the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF) to find ways lessen the number through their own forms of tactics and training.
“We have talked about the nature of shootings many times, and where certain tactics can change to prevent further loss of life,” he added.
Assistant Commissioner Campbell added that while some individuals resist their investigations, overall reception from the JCF and JDF has been good.
“There will always be some officers still unable to deal with the fact that an independent oversight body exists, calls people to account and seeks to address why people are being killed. The police service [doesn’t] resist INDECOM’s work, they recognise it’s there, whether they like it or not – but the majority are professional enough to acknowledge the work that is done and they comply with the greater majority of instructions that are given,” Campbell told Jamaica Today.
Campbell admitted that Jamaica’s security forces have a difficult balance to maintain as criminal networks across the island do not shy away from violence. However, he argued, more use of non-lethal policing in other instances will be key.
“There is a need to bring down the numbers, there is a need to constantly review their tactics, training and their actions, and that will bring down, with a range of other [methods] the number of fatalities – which remains significantly high in Jamaica,” Campbell argued.
“Each year, there should be less shootings, less fatalities. Of course, there will always be encounters with armed gunmen in Jamaica. We see it all the time and the security forces experience it. But the number of people who are killed in these encounters can continue to be reduced,” he added.