Police Complaints Authority For Transparency And Justice

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As obtains in international society, public outcry over the treatment of people by police officers, whether evoked by crime victim dissatisfaction or alleged incidents during law enforcement procedure, is not uncommon in Barbadian society.

A recent research study of Barbadian views and beliefs about crime and criminal justice revealed that personal grouses included low satisfaction with police reaction to sex offences and crime victim belief that police were not interested. A poor view of police response to the offence was held by some women who had been physically assaulted.

Other people have alleged that the police did not treat them correctly or politely; were slow to arrive; did not keep them informed about investigations, and did not do enough.?? There have also been calls for better policing and even more policing.

But a lot of the hue and cry is only perceptions of police performance in the absence of factual evidence that could prove truth or fabrication.

On both sides of the fence, however, all parties have recourse to the Police Complaints Authority, a government body established five??years ago to ensure transparency and justice to all in relation to charges brought against the police.

So that, when there is an allegation of misconduct by a police officer, the complainant needs the intervention of the Police Complaints Authority.?? A comprehensive list of complaints filed against the police at the authority manifests the most common categories are:

1– refused to state their names and police badge numbers; abused the public; treated the public in an unduly aggressive manner .

2 – took an undue length of time before the conclusion of an investigation of reported incidents by the public.

3 – entered premises either with or without presenting search warrants; damaged, destroyed or stole property, mainly cash, while searching premises; confiscated articles belonging to members of the public; beat or verbally abused members of the public during police searches or raids in complainants’ home, as well as in the police stations and in police vehicles.

4 – misused their powers as police officers to further their personal interests rather than that of the police force or members of the public.

And in the quest for a solution to the above or any other type of public complaint, the authority will refer the matter to the police for investigation, culminating in a report back to the complaints unit.

Headed by Chairman retired Justice LeRoy Inniss, the Police Complaints Authority is also comprehensively and competently served by his deputy Michael

Beckles, an attorney-at-law; secretary/member Henderson Marshall; Attorney-at-Law Cecil MCCarthy Q.C.; Dr. Raymond Forde and Head of the Civil Service Avril Gollop, as ex officio member.

Despite such a mix, the Chairman realises that there could be reasonable public perception that the Police Complaints Authority would be anti-police. "Thus, we have to educate the public," declared Justice Inniss, "that we function to provide justice; not on the one hand to harass the police or on the other to condone misconduct on the part of the police."

This brings us to a crucial question: if the complainant is dissatisfied with the authority’s review and subsequent findings, what is the next move for the aggrieved person?

The answer lies in section 21 of the Police Complaints Authority Act, entitled Reviews by the Authority: 21. (1) A person who is aggrieved with the disposition of his complaint or with the findings of the investigation by the Police Force, may apply in writing to the Authority for a review of the complaint by the Authority within three months of the notice of the disposition of the complaint (or) within three months of the receipt of the results of the investigation, as the case may be.

What further input is there for the authority? According to section???? 21. (2) (3) of the Act :

(2) On receipt of an application under sub-section (1), The Authority shall notify the Commissioner in writing and request from the Commissioner, all material relevant to the particular complaint.

(3) The Commissioner shall, upon receiving the request under sub-section (1), furnish the Authority with all material relevant to the complaint.

As also according to section 22 entitled Where complaint satisfactorily disposed of, section 23 entitled, Where complaint not satisfactorily disposed of and section 24 entitled, Conduct of hearings:

22. Where on review, the Authority is satisfied with the manner of the disposition of a complaint or with the findings of the invest igation, it shall submit a report in writing to that effect to the Commissioner and shall furnish the complainant and the police officer concerned with a copy.

23. (1) Where the Authority is not satisfied with the manner in which the complaint is disposed of, the Authority may

(a) institute a hearing to inquire into the complaint;

??(b)submit a report to the Commissioner setting out its findings and recommendations in respect of the disposition of the complaint.

(2)Where the Commissioner does not implement the recommendations of the Authority, the Commissioner shall submit a report to the

Authority and to the Governor-General setting out his reasons therefor, together with his comments:

(3)A copy of the Authority’s report under this section shall be sent to the complainant and the police officer concerned.

24. (1) The Authority may institute a hearing under section 23 by sending a notice of the hearing to the Commissioner, the complainant and the police officer concerned.

(2) The notice of hearing referred to in sub-section (1) shall specify

(a) ??the purpose of the hearing, and

(b)?? the place and time of the hearing.

(3) It is the duty of the police officer concerned to attend the hearing referred to in sub-section (1).

(4) Where the complainant, having had due notice of the time and place of the hearing, does not attend the hearing, the Authority may dismiss the application for review unless, having received a reasonable excuse for the non-appearance of the complainant, the Authority thinks it fit to adjourn the matter.

tadams@barbados.gov.bb

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