Kennard keen to restore confidence
Wants independent investigators By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
January 13, 2002

Newly appointed chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, Cecil Kennard, is keen to restore public confidence in its operation and says he has the support of the Office of the President and the Ministry of Home Affairs for the necessary steps to bring this about.

Speaking with Stabroek News, Kennard, who retired as Chancellor of the Judiciary last March, spoke of his plans for restoring confidence in the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).

These plans, he said, include having the secretariat properly staffed with a legal officer (at present the staff consists of a secretary, a cleaner and an office assistant); setting up an independent investigative body staffed by retired police officers who no longer have any relationship with the present members of the force and ensuring the necessary amendments are enacted to give the PCA more teeth to see that its directions are obeyed.

He also intends to travel to the regions to hear complaints from persons who are unable to travel to Georgetown to lodge their complaints.

Kennard said that he was aware of the criticisms of the PCA and conscious of the concerns of the public about extra-judicial killings by the police. "I am conscious of that and that is uppermost in my mind. I will be keeping my ears and eyes open in relation to any incident." One of the first cases he intends to tackle is the shooting of Brian King. King was allegedly shot in his mouth by a police rank but the accounts of the shooting by the police and eyewitnesses differ. "I'll give the police a little time [to complete their investigation] because it has just happened, but I intend to keep my fingers on that one as well."

Kennard also conceded that criticisms about the police being asked to investigate their own were valid and said he intended to make recommendations for this provision of the act to be amended. "For instance I think we should have an investigating team attached to this office so that an independent investigation can be carried out."

Kennard said that he was not precluded from investigating allegations of judicial killings that took place before he took over as chairman of the authority. "If a complaint is made surely the fact that it occurred before I assumed office doesn't preclude me from doing what I am required to do."

He explained that if an allegation had been made and nothing had been done, the aggrieved person could call at his office. He would not ignore that person, as he would have jurisdiction to enquire. Kennard said he was aware that recommendations related to the amending act to make the authority more effective had been made to the minister of Home Affairs, but was unaware whether there had been any follow-up with him.

At present investigations for the Authority are conducted by the Office of Professional Responsibilities of the Police Force. The unit is headed by an Assistant Commissioner of Police and is located at the Police Headquarters, Eve Leary.

Kennard explained that under the act he has a supervisory jurisdiction where police had unlawfully wounded or killed a person or discharged a loaded firearm.

He said that when such incidents occurred the police are "required to send me the relevant statements. They are bound to do so. I intend to strictly enforce that. Under that provision all statements ought to be submitted to me."

Kennard said he was entitled to make comments on those statements and they should be taken into account by the Director of Public Prosecutions who is ultimately responsible for deciding whether or not a charge should be laid.

He said that he could also comment on whether an investigation has been properly conducted or not. A former police legal adviser, Kennard said that he had been exposed to the conduct of police investigations and would be able to make an informed comment on the nature of the investigation that had been carried out.

"If for instance an investigation hasn't been properly conducted I'll say so, and that the DPP should order further investigations into the matter."

About the relationship with the DPP, Kennard said that he hoped to establish a cordial relationship so as to allow the authority to function effectively and so help to restore public confidence in it.

About the staffing of the proposed investigative arm of the authority, Kennard said that there were a lot of retired policemen who had left the system some time ago who could be tapped. He explained that he wouldn't think of asking persons who recently left the force because of the relationship they might still have with members of the force.

Kennard said too that he intended to look at the corresponding act in force in Jamaica to see what aspects could be adopted locally in an effort to restore confidence in the authority.

He said that he had heard and agreed with the criticism that the office had not been doing as much as it ought to, to make it accessible for bringing complaints. "I intend to visit outlying districts to receive and hear complaints from those poor people who cannot afford to come to Georgetown or are unable to write a proper complaint."

He said too that the act provided for him to be assisted by two persons and that Dr (Roger) Luncheon was working on identifying them.

"One good thing about the act," he said, "is if we are rejecting a complaint it requires you to call in the complainant and to notify that person before rejecting the complaint." Kennard said too that he intended to have a public debate on the working of the act and the extent to which it ought to be amended, pointing out that a recent letter by UG lecturer, Sherwood Lowe, had a number of good suggestions for improving the working of the authority.

He said that heading an important body like as the PCA required him to be on the ball. He pointed out that when he assumed office, there was not even a set of the Laws of Guyana but that had since been addressed, as he had been able to get a set from the Attorney General. About the absence of other literature, he said that he hoped to contact the British High Commission for assistance in accessing the reports of the British Police Complaints Authority. He explained that the local act was patterned on the British legislation, which had been studied by a Ministry of Home Affairs official before the local legislation had been enacted.