Police Complaints Authority (PCA) head David West says the independent body has several challenges and limitations, including the requested series of amendments yet to be approved by the Legislation Review Committee.
West made the comment hours after Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s urged the body to fast track the probe into the police killings of three men in Morvant last Saturday, in which he noted the PCA’s inefficiency in investigating matters involving police officers was one of the issues affecting the of people getting justice in some matters.
Rowley made the comment during a media conference in which he addressed the protests earlier this week sparked the by police killings of Joel Jacob, Noel Diamond and Israel Clinton.
“We have a Police Complaints Authority (PCA) which has the duty to investigate the actions of police officers, particularly where the outcome has been one of such great sadness generating such anger. But I will be less than honest with you if I just tell you leave it to the PCA … because I too, as a Member of Parliament having experienced this before, as a citizen having seen this before and wanting justice to be done not just for those against whom the allegation would have been made and for those who would have lost members of the community or their family, but for the national community to know that something has gone on here and this is the person or people who are held accountable.
“Unfortunately this has not been our experience that we could just sit back and say ok leave it to the PCA and one day they will churn out a result,” Rowley said.
Rowley said the PCA have been not functioning that way and added that there is an absence of confidence.
“And that means that when the parliament thought that they would have dealt with these matters in that way, we still have to wait for that kind of outcome so we have to ensure that there are proper investigations that generate evidence. In this situation, to call for immediate action without the evidence is to call for revenge as against justice,” Rowley said.
But in the PCA’s defence, West said the body is a creature of statute designed specifically to conduct investigations into allegations of both serious police misconduct and criminal offences which may include officer-involved shootings. However, he said since 2012 the PCA had requested a series of amendments designed to give them more teeth which are yet to be approved by the Legislation Review Committee.
“We look forward to our continued work with that committee to finalise these amendments which would better serve the PCA’s and the public’s interests,” West said.
He said in 2016 the PCA hosted two public consultations on the pending amendments and the Attorney General agreed the PCA’s powers were too limited.
“In the absence of amended legislation, the PCA has been relegated to rely on other institutional bodies, including the TTPS, which as a result, delays the course of our investigations,” he said.
He said the PCA’s reliance on other bodies affects their ability to complete probes effectively and efficiently.
The challenges include delays in receiving:
• Critical documents from the Forensic Science Centre such as post mortems and certificates of analysis;
• TTPS investigative files for auditing purposes;
• Reports from officers who discharged their firearms or were present during such discharges.”
West said the PCA has sought to remedy the aforementioned issues through discussing a Memorandum of Understanding with the T&T Police Service, “which is yet to accede formally to the terms and conditions necessary to facilitate same.”
West added, “In spite of these challenges, the PCA has made significant referrals to both the Offices of the Commissioner of Police and the Director of Public Prosecutions. These achievements have been accomplished through the hard work and dedication of the staff of the PCA who perform yeoman service. While the PCA is statutorily bound by confidentiality, details of referrals which are disclosable will be released in due course,” he said.