JFJ Press Release: JFJ Questions need for New Guidelines for Use of Force by the JCF

JFJ Questions need for New Guidelines for Use of Force by the JCF 

Monday, March 26, 2012, Kingston, Jamaica – Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ) questions the necessity of Commissioner Ellington’s review and revision the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Human Rights and Police Use of Force and Firearms Policy. Commissioner Ellington, in the latest edition of his newsletter, outlined areas of the existing policy that would be considered for revision, mentioning new guidelines that would form the proposed changes.

JFJ believes that the existing policy is clear as to the use of force by police officers.  The policy contains the following clauses among others:

3. The principles of Public safety and Police Officer Safety are of equal and paramount importance and inform the concepts set out in this policy document.

13. Whenever members of the JCF resort to the lawful use of force they shall:

  • Minimize any interference with human rights;
  • Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the lawful objective to be achieved;
  • Minimize damage and injury;

14. The use of force by members of the JCF must accord with the principles of proportionality (i.e. the anticipated injury or harm to be prevented is equal to or greater than the harm which is likely to be caused by the use of force and that that the objective cannot be achieved by a lesser degree of force). In no case should the use of force, which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved, be used or authorised.

The policy also already contains a specific Obligation to Protect Others which states “If members of the JCF do not take appropriate and proportionate action to protect others from harm they may be violating human rights and be in breach of their duty as a police officer”. 

The Use of Force and Firearms Policy further states: 

45. Members of the JCF shall not use firearms… except in self-defence or defence of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury…and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve these objectives. In any event, the use of a conventional firearm may only be made when strictly necessary in order to protect life. 

52. Any use of firearms must be in accordance with force instructions and training. Only in the most extreme circumstances, where life is endangered or there is risk of serious injury, may the use of lethal force be justifiable.

53. The circumstances in which lethal force can be used within the terms of Jamaican law are limited, being restricted to situations involving self- defence or defence of others and then only where strictly necessary. 

57. Whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, JCF members will: i. Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved; ii. Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life 

58. In determining whether the use of firearms is strictly necessary the following questions should be asked:

  • Is the use of firearms proportionate, in the given circumstances, bearing in mind the dangers to the lives of all persons involved? • Is the degree of force used strictly necessary in order to achieve a lawful objective?
  • Have other options been considered before resorting to the use of a firearm?
  • Why were these options discounted?

 In particular, we are clear that the Use of Force and Firearms Policy, in the section entitled Oral Warning,  says that Members of the JCF shall identify themselves as such and give a clear warning of their intent to use firearms, with sufficient time for the warning to be observed” so we wonder why Commissioner Ellington would  state that the policy “denies the police officer the tactical option of “threatening the use of deadly force” while demanding that an attacker ceases an attack or drops a weapon”

While we commend Commissioner Ellington for saying that he is being “responsive” to the “legitimate concerns and expectations of [the] citizens”, JFJ holds firm to its belief that the problem does not lie with the policy itself, but with an absence of measures to ensure adherence to it, along with the absence of effective accountability mechanisms to sanction those who act outside of the rule of law and the policy.

Commissioner Ellington needs to find a way to rein in his men.Jamaicaneeds a professional police service and not one that indulges in paramilitary style policing.