Speech by the Prime Minister

Caribbean Use of Force Conference Hosted by INDECOM


By The

The Most Hon. Andrew Holness, ON, MP

At the

INDECOM’s Caribbean Use of Force Conference

May 31, 2017


Thank you madam chairperson.


Mr. Terrence Williams Commissioner of INDECOM,

The Honourable Mrs. Justice Zaila McCalla Chief Justice of Jamaica,

The Honourable Mr. Justice Dennis Morrison, president of the Court of Appeal,

Excellences and members of the diplomatic corps,

Mr. Bruno Pouezat, UN Resident Coordinator,

Mr. Peter Bunting Opposition spokesperson on National Security,

Major General Rocky Meade Chief of Defense staff,

The commissioner of police Mr. Quallo, custodes,

Regional participants,

Members of staff of INDECOM,

Heads of agencies and departments,

Distinguished guests,

Members of the media,

Ladies and gentlemen, good morning.


I hope I did the salutations justice. Jamaica spends quite a bit of time ensuring that protocol is observed and I’ve said at several of these events that I’m going to give a direction to my protocol office that once the protocol list is observed, it need not be observed again.


It is my great pleasure to join you here this morning for the opening of this Caribbean Use of Force in law enforcement contracts. Now my presence here is not just ceremonial, more so it is an opportunity for the government to restate its commitment to the advancement of human rights and the development of citizen and rights conscious law and public order enforcement services.


The participation of representatives from across the region is an indication that the challenges we face can best be overcome when we pool our collective resources and work together for a common goal.


I thank the commissioner of the Independent Commission of Investigations INDECOM, his planning team, the United Nations Development Programme, the British High Commissioner, the United States Embassy- I did not know you were a soccer fan Ambassador. I’m happy to learn of the magnitude of the assistance that has been given to the programme. The government of Jamaica values the continued partnership in this and other areas.


The staging of this conference is indeed timely for the strengthening of the rule of law, the promotion and protection of human rights and ultimately to improve citizens security. These are critical underpinnings of our efforts to achieve sustainable development. Security, development and human rights are indivisible foundations of successful modern societies.


Societies cannot flourish and citizens cannot realize their full potential in the absence of any of these key elements. It is our collective responsibility as citizens, as elected representatives, as leaders, as law enforcement and agents of the state to ensure that neither our actions nor our policies serve to undermine or infringe the rights of citizens.


This conference is an important one which will serve as a model for collaboration between the development partners, various stakeholders in law enforcement and hopefully will result in the achievement of some meaningful milestones.


Guiding the rethinking of strategies must be focused research so that the solutions will be evidence based and channeled towards practical implementation and I pay special note to what the ACP said not just a download but I note what you said Mark that we all agree to this; to download it and implement it and I’m going to use your analogy we should be producing books that qualify as door stops and I hope that we produce here today will not be a doorstop but will be implemented right across the region.


Policies must therefore be rooted in the requirement to find a balance between public safety and officer safety. It must consider the complex environment that exist and must be steadily reviewed to ensure it remains relevant to the circumstances of those who serve, those whom they serve and those that seek to undermine the rule of law balance.


I want to join Ambassador Moreno in saying that oversight of the use of force, oversight of the main agents of the state in the use of force is beneficial for the society and indeed beneficial for the agents of the state. The society that we are trying to create cannot rely on the use of force for the preservation of law and order.


For too long since our independence, since our colonial past we’ve relied on force in order to get law and order. The truth is that we’ve neither gotten the rule of law or order so in a sense the use of force has not really achieved anything meaningful beneficial.


I am totally ceased of the importance of entering Jamaica into a new paradigm of engendering rule of law and public order and it starts with a rights conscious citizen, conscious evidence based sort of law, enforcement and policing.


This will not happen overnight and you mentioned television programmes. You just need to look at the internet to see how even advanced police forces are challenged in achieving this balance but it is the commitment that will differentiate the direction of the state and as I said in my opening remarks, my presence here is not just ceremonial; it is a symbol of the commitment of the government and I would dare say not just this government but previous governments to ensure that our security forces transition from the overreliance on the use of force to secure and preserve the rule of law and public order.


The use of force policy must underscore the importance of the preservation of innocent lives and it must go further. It must also underscore the professional obligation to train members of the security forces to the highest standards so that they are able to ensure personal and public safety and be able to operate in varied circumstances.


The right balance is necessary to ensure that law enforcement officers will never hesitate to execute their duties in ensuring that safety of those they’re sworn to protect is achieved. The personal safety of the officers themselves that is also achieved, that citizens can trust a system that guarantees that where improper force is suspected, it will be investigated and addressed accordingly and I think this point is worth stressing.


In any system you will have the confrontation of forces. Whether it is social forces having to confront law enforcement forces and in Jamaica that is usually the case. The issues of poverty, the issues for social exclusion, the massive unequal distribution of income in our country, unemployment situation- these are all forces that when they come together you know sometimes we want to push the law enforcement out there to say you go and address those issues and that confrontation often times lead to the loss of lives.


It creates, it breathes, it supports, it gives the impression, the perception that there is no justice in the country. It also creates the atmosphere of low trust so it will take some time to ensure that our police forces are equipped with other means of enforcing law and engendering the rule of law and public order.


When issues occur which result in the abuse of rights or the loss of life there must be a well-respected, well-resourced institution that investigates, that looks into the details of how human rights were abused or the ultimate abuse, how life was lost.


It has taken some time for the Jamaican public to come to this appreciation; very long time. Since I was first Member of Parliament, the cries of a mother who lost her son and representing an inner city constituency, I’ve had to deal with hundreds of these cases.


One that always comes to mind is – as a member of parliament it’s not just legislation, it’s also quite a bit of social work  – I went to visit a home of a family who just lost a member. The youngster was coming home from a dance. It was an alleged confrontation and the youngster was killed by the policeman. On entering the home there was this shrill cry of a little girl at the window calling for her daddy; calling for her daddy. Her daddy is not coming home. It was very little I could say. There’s nothing I could say other than to ensure that were I ever in a position to ensure that these things do not happen that I do what is necessary to ensure that there are no more little girls by the window crying their hearts out for their father to come home.


But it is equally the case that as we were swearing in the new Commissioner, maybe just at the time he was taking the oath, a policeman in the line of duty protecting and serving also lost his life.


There is nothing that the state can say or do to replace the value of his life to his family, to his children who I am certain are crying for his return.


What the state must therefore guarantee is a process. A process to ensure that our law enforcement agencies use force in a way that creates trust, builds confidence, bridges the gap and makes the public feel that there is no need to fear the police, that best solution is to cooperate with the police because the good citizens and the police have one common objective and that is the safety and security of the entire society.


We sometimes build conflict between INDECOM and the police, that tension, as you say Ambassador. Yes it is a sign of progress but we can’t allow the tension to evolve to a point where it makes enemies of both very important institutions. The policy of this government is to have a police force, a law enforcement system that sees INDECOM as an important part of its own policy and strategy of implementation and have an oversight body that sees themselves as supporting the police force in reaching the higher standards and deploying the alternative methods of law enforcement for the common good of securing Jamaica land we love.


So in finishing my speech, it is anticipated that this conference will consider these issues and will propose the establishment of procedures and protocols that will strengthen the relationship between communities and law enforcement officials. In so doing progressive steps towards the reinforcement of public support for public safety and rule of law will be achieved across the region.


In my address to parliament some weeks ago, I reminded all members of parliament and all Jamaicans that the first duty of government is to protect, preserve and promote life. All other rights follow from the right to life. This responsibility is not one which I take lightly neither is it one that we can choose to apply selectively.


Jamaica’s premiere law enforcement entity, the Jamaica Constabulary Force is taking the necessary steps to address the issue and we’ve seen them do this by instituting human rights training as a core component for new recruits. The bold move to polygraph new recruits is also another measure but I’ve since given through the National Security Council other directives such as the polygraphing of all officers in a particular region that is being done now as we speak.


Polygraphing is an important tool. It is an important management tool and it gives the police the direction, the guidance as to how to deploy and manage the human resource at their disposal but it all depends. The polygraph can reveal all kinds of things but it all depends on what the leadership of the police force does.


In my interaction with the police I’m certain that the leadership of the police force gets the message. Old style policing whether it is policing on the beat or the strategic deployment of resources or even not just the use of force because we tend to look at the use of force as probably the main strategy of the police but vehicle deployment, the use of your technology in policing, all of these strategies have to be improved and all of them have to be directed towards the preservation of life, the advancement of human rights in the support of the rule of law and public order.


I know that the JCF is making the necessary changes, taking necessary steps. I think that the leadership has gotten the message; it is not policing as usual.


Critical to this transformation of this police force is the entrenchment of community policing which is key to building trust between the police, the communities and citizens with whom they come into contact on a daily basis.


Recognizing that this a two day engagement we must not only focus on the behavior and actions of the police, but citizens also have a duty and a responsibility to observe the law. So in the search for balance it is important that there is a positive statement from this conference reaffirming the need for the citizen to play their part in ensuring the rule of law and public order.


As I conclude, allow me to thank all of you for your presence here today. It is a sign of our shared commitment to preserving human rights. This commitment cannot be confined to policy documents or to statements by our respective commissioners of police or heads of state or heads of agencies. All citizens must acknowledge their individual roles in creating a safe, secure and just Jamaica land we love.


I wish for you all a productive and successful conference.