Body cameras help reduce police complaints, says watchdog

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BODY-WORN cameras have helped cut the number of complaints about police conduct that are referred to the Jersey Police Complaints Authority, the head of the organisation has said.

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Howard Cooper, chairman of the JPCA, added that for the Island to have a complaints authority with its own investigatory powers – similar to the UK’s Independent Office for Police Conduct – would be ‘excessive and expensive’. The IOPC has the power to investigate itself but only gets involved in the most serious cases.

Deputy Mike Higgins said earlier this month that Jersey needed its own independent authority and criticised the JPCA for not being ‘truly independent’, saying it was the ‘police investigating themselves’.

Currently in Jersey if an informal resolution cannot be agreed when a complaint is made to the police, the JPCA will be notified and will oversee an investigation carried out by the States police’s own Professional Standards Department. That process is similar in many jurisdictions.

Mr Cooper said: ‘We would have to have trained investigators and if they are local who are they going to be? Retired police officers. You would get the same criticisms.’

Legislation regarding how police complaints are handled in Jersey is currently being overhauled.

Mr Cooper said proposed changes could help to reduce the number of ‘trivial’ cases that end up being referred to the JPCA. He added that the force had become better at resolving cases informally and that body-worn-camera footage had also helped.

Last year, figures show, there were 16 investigations into police conduct supervised by the JPCA regarding matters such as alleged us of excessive force, harassment and data breaches. Of those, one complaint was substantiated and seven were ongoing at the end of the year. By comparison in 2013 and 2014, when the States police first introduced body-worn cameras, there were 26 and 35 investigations supervised by the JPCA.

Mr Cooper added: ‘One of Deputy Higgins’ criticisms of us is that we are not open and transparent. We are developing a website, that was due to go live earlier this year, because there is currently not enough info in the public about complaints and the process.

‘If you look at the IOPC website there is a wealth of information. Something like that can show the process from complaint to outcome.’

Jack Maguire

By Jack Maguire

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