Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security

 

The Establishment of a Police Complaints Commission (PCC)

 

 

Introduction

 

The Police Complaints Act was passed in the House of Assembly on November 12, 2002 and in the Senate on December 20, 2002.  However, the Act had not yet been activated. I therefore wish to announce the activation of this Act with effect from August 3rd, 2005.

 

Pursuant to Section (4), Subsection (1) of the Police Complaints Act No.6 of 2003, the Commission consists of five members appointed by the Minister with responsibility for the Police, (The Honourable Minister for Home Affairs and Internal Security) as follows: -

 

Ř      Two Persons nominated by the Chief Justice;

Ř      Two persons nominated by the Minister;

Ř      One person nominated by the Commissioner of Police

 

The Members of the Commission are:

 

                        Mrs. Ianthea Leigertwood-Octave – Chairperson

                        Mr. Francis Compton

                        Mr. Beresford Harding

                        Mr. Conrad James

                        Mr. Hazel Charles

 

Individuals chosen are persons well known in society for honesty and integrity and whom the public will have confidence in.

 

Background

 

The Police form a critical element in the social cohesion of our society. Presently there is concern for serious crime in the community.  If the Police Service does not improve its effectiveness and business practices, the social fabric of the   country would be put at serious risk.

 

To be an effective Police Service, officers must comport themselves at all times, practicing the values of compassion, honesty, integrity, professionalism, respect and accountability.  Police conduct must at all times be above and beyond reproach if the service is to be effective.  Therefore discipline is a critical   element.

Public confidence is correlated in some way to the perception of how the Police Force treats its internal disciplinary matters.  The lack of confidence by the public in the police results in the unreporting of serious crimes, frustration, fear and distrust.

 

Presently, there are over 110 outstanding disciplinary matters dating back to 7th January 1998. 

 

For the period January to July 31, 2004 an additional 79 complaints have been lodged by the public against the police.

 

Several of the cases involve physical assault, threatening to arrest, verbal abuse and harassment.

 

As a result, the public has lost confidence in the ability of the Police Department to adequately, fairly, judiciously and effectively deal with its internal disciplinary matters in a timely manner.  This has caused a tremendous disconnect between the Police Force as a whole, and the public it serves.  Currently, public opinion of the Police Force is low.

 

New Initiative

 

Among its measures to ensure that we have an effective police service, Government has recently appointed the first ever Police Complaints Commission in accordance with the Police Complaints Act No. 6 of 2003.

 

The Role of the Police Complaints Commission is to ensure that complaints by the public against the police are addressed in an expeditious manner, in accordance with the Police Complaints Act.

 

The Police Complaints Act is set out in five (5) Parts: I, II, III, IV, V.

 

Part I                -           Refers to the short title and commencement

 

Part II              -           The Establishment and Organization of the Commission

 

Part III             -           Receipt and Investigation of complaints by the Police Complaints
                                    Unit.  Under this Section there is also provision for informal

disposition and frivolous complaints.

 

Part IV             -           Review of Results of Investigation.

 

Part V              -           Miscellaneous

 

Provides for: -

Ř      Immunity of members

Ř      Committees of the Commission

Ř      Prohibition and privilege

Ř      Secrecy

Ř      Channel of communication

Ř      Offences

 

 

The functions of the Commission are as follows:

 

(a)                receive complaints on the conduct of any police officer;

(b)               monitor the investigation of a complaint by the Police Complaints Unit, so as to ensure that the investigation is conducted impartially;

(c)                report to the Minister from time to time, or at his or her request;
and

(d)               review reports from the Unit in accordance with Part IV.

 

2)         Where the Commission so determines it may decline to refer a complaint to the

unit and may in such case conduct an investigation on its own accord.

 

Powers of the Commission

 

(1)               For the purposes of the discharge of its functions the Commission has power-

(a)    to request any information, documents or things, with respect to a complaint, from:

                                                            (i)      The Commissioner;

                                                          (ii)      The Unit;

                                                         (iii)      Any person making a complaint;

                                                        (iv)      The police officer against whom the complaint is made; or

                                                          (v)      Any other person who, in the opinion of the Commission, may be able to assist

 

(b)   In the case of a review of a complaint to:

                                                            (i)      request all or any of the parties concerned as well as witnesses to appear before the Commission;

                                                          (ii)      request such information, documents or things as it deems necessary to review the compliant.

 

(2)               The Commission may give such guidance to the Unit as may be necessary to ensure thoroughness and impartiality in the carrying out of the functions of the Unit.

 

Police Complaints Unit

 

The Police Complaint Unit in accordance with Part III of the Police Complaints Act is responsible for the receipt and investigation of complaints by the public.  The Commissioner of Police has overall responsibility for the operations of the Unit.

 

Complaints Unit 

 

(1)   The Commissioner shall, after consultation with the Minister, establish and maintain for the purposes of this Act, a unit within the Police force to be known as the Complaints Unit.

 

(2)   The Unit shall: -

 

(a)    investigate complaints made by members of the public against police officers and referred to it by the Commission;

(b)   resolve the said complaints in accordance with this Act;

(c)    submit to the Commission and to the Commissioner: -

                                                            (i)      at the end of every three months, a progress report on the work undertaken by the Unit;

                                                          (ii)      a final report on all investigations, and

(d)   carry out such other duties as the Commissioner or the Commission may assign to it from time to time.

 

(3)   The Unit shall be headed by a police officer of a rank no lower than that of Assistant Superintendent save that, where a complaint is made: -

 

(a)    against the Head of the Unit; or

(b)   against an officer of a higher rank than the Head of the Unit;

           

The Commissioner shall appoint an officer of a rank senior to that of the officer against whom the complaint is made to investigate that complaint.

 

(4)   The Commissioner shall ensure that the Unit is supplied with sufficient staff and facilities to receive complaints from the Commission and to record and investigate those complaints.

 

Complaints by the Public

 

(1)   Any member of the public having a complaint concerning the conduct of any police officer appointed or employed under the Police Ordinance No. 30 of 1965 may, whether or not that member of the public is affected by the subject matter of the complaint, make a complaint in the form contained in the Schedule, to: -

 

(a)    the Commission;

(b)   any police officer appointed by the Commissioner to be responsible for the receipt and investigation of complaints by the public against the police.

 

(2)   The person who receives a complaint:-

(a)    under subsection (1) (a), shall give a certified copy to the person making the complaint; and

(b)   under subsection (1) (b), shall send a copy of the complaint to the Commission.

(3)   Where, however, the complaint relates to a fatality or alleged criminal conduct a copy shall be sent to the Director of Public Prosecution.

 

(4)   In this section ‘certified copy’ means a copy of the complaint signed by the person receiving the same and stamped ‘certified’ with an official stamp.

 

Commission to transmit complaints to Unit

 

The Commission shall record all complaints received, and shall submit them to the Unit through the Commissioner for investigation and resolution in the manner provided in this Act.

 

Application for Review

 

A person who is aggrieved with the disposition of his or her complaint or with the findings and recommendations of the Unit, may apply in writing to the Commission for a review of the matter by the Commission, within one month of receipt of the outcome of the investigation.

                                   

Provision is also made for the Commissioner to furnish relevant material to the Commission for the purpose of carrying out a review.

 

Ř      Review by the Commission

Ř      Hearing instituted by the Commission

 

Benefits to Society

 

It is hoped that the Commission will clear the backlog of disciplinary cases while at the same time reach out to the community in a meaningful way to form an important link/partnership with the public.

 

This initiative will achieve many positive returns.  The Police Disciplinary process will be transparent and important strides will be made in rebuilding public confidence in the police. This in turn will contribute to the achievement of the community policing objective of building partnership between the police and our communities.

 

Police officers will be held accountable and responsible for their actions in a more timely manner.  Transparency and partnership with the community will be stressed.  Public confidence and trust in the police will increase.  Internal disciplinary procedures will be enhanced and accelerated, resulting in a more just process for the police officers and the public.  Corrective action resulting from decisions will be expedited. 

 

Address of the Commission

 

The Commission will be located at the Ministry of Home Affairs and Internal Security in the Sir Stanislaus James Building, Ground Floor, Waterfront, Castries.  All correspondence should be addressed to the Chairperson, Police Complaints Commission.

 

Address of the Police Complaints Unit 

 

Complaints by the public against the police should be addressed to the Commissioner of Police, Police Headquarters, Bridge Street, Castries.

 

 

 

                                         CALIXTE GEORGE

                                         Minister

                                        Ministry of Home Affairs & Internal Security        

   


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