Police Commissioner Paul Rolle.
By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
POLICE Commissioner Paul Rolle said he has "every confidence" in how police-involved killings are investigated despite calls for an independent body to investigate the matters.
Commissioner Rolle said the Coroner’s Court is responsible for investigating the killings and that nothing is done involving fatal shootings unless the coroner is present.
Coroner Jeanine Weech-Gomez, however, has herself denied that her body is responsible for investigating such events.
Before jurors decided last year that police unlawfully killed 22-year-old Osworth Rolle, she told them: “We have no special task force to investigate an officer in a police-involved shooting. In this jurisdiction, if there is a fatal police shooting, it is the police who will investigate the police.”
Commissioner Rolle was asked if there is a need for an independent body nearly two weeks after police killed three men off Cowpen Road.
“There is an independent body in the Coroner’s Court that is responsible for investigating all police-involved killings but we in law enforcement, we assist the coroner in taking statements, collecting evidence," he said. "When an officer collects any evidence for example on a crime scene and he seals it, he doesn’t see that any more until it gets in court. Persons who give police statements will appear before the coroner and the coroner is going to be doing the investigation and that is going to be made up of members of the public so any suggestion that the officer takes a statement and they disagree with, the coroner has that prerogative. Furthermore, any member of the public who has information regarding an incident could feel free to go and see the coroner and they have police officers assigned to the coroner to do it. When they have a coroner’s inquest, the officer’s involved must appear, it’s a public hearing by members of the public.”
Commissioner Rolle said the coroner is present when evidence is collected and secured at scenes.
“I have every confidence in (the system),” he said. “Whenever an incident happens, we call the coroner, we don’t do anything until the coroner arrives. Nothing is done. The coroner is there overseeing and giving instructions. The evidence is submitted to the lab and it’s a chain of custody, so it goes to an exhibit officer and the exhibit persons there, they are a mix of police and civilian persons and it’s analysed and the report doesn’t come back to me, the report goes to the coroner. So the longest we would keep a file is about two days and so the pathologist report, the death certificate, doesn’t come to the commissioner, that goes to the coroner. I don’t know what it says, I wouldn’t know until there’s a hearing, that’s when I find out.”
Mr Rolle made his comments to reporters after marking the completion of a tactical policing and defensive drivers course involving police, customs and immigration officers.
During his address to the attendees, he said: “You were trained in physical fitness and agility as you need to be physically fit to perform your tasks. You were trained and certified in emergency medical so that you would be able to render first aid should it become necessary in your daily duties. You were retrained in justifiable force and harm. I need you to always be mindful of your limitations in the use of force. We serve an ever aware and watching public that expect us to protect them and not to abuse our powers in dealing with them.”
Mr Rolle told the course participants firearms and lethal force should be a last resort and “only when the exercise of persuasion, advice and warning is found to be insufficient to obtain public cooperation to an extent necessary to secure observance of law or to restore order, and to use only the minimum degree of physical force which is necessary on any particular occasion for achieving a police objective."
He said the RBPF has received 800 cameras and that officers will be trained in how to use them when the borders reopen. He said officials are examining policies pertaining to the publication of footage from body cameras. “If it’s a matter for court, then we’ll go to court, if it’s something where we need the public’s assistance, then we’ll release it to the media the same way we do now,” he said.
Commissioner Rolle also said he is exploring less lethal weapon options like tasers and body wrap technologies to reduce incidents of fatal encounters between police and suspects. “I have approached a company in the US already, a couple of them. Just yesterday I got a communication from a local company and have asked Assistant Commissioner (Craig) Stubbs and the executive team to arrange a meeting to get a demonstration so we are actively looking for alternatives, we don’t want to in every instance resort to lethal force so while we explore this whole idea of using tasers but of course with using tasers, every time a person is tased they have to be taken to the hospital, EMS has to come and they have to be treated so there’s also an inherent danger in that. I mean it’s less lethal and it’s an option that we are looking at,” he said.
Asked when he expects movement on the embrace of less lethal weapons, he said: “Depending on how soon the vendors can get the information to me and then I have then to approach cabinet. I’m not only trying to get them, but I have to get feedback from all the other professionals as well with the use of tasers and you talk about the degree of injury and what is happening in other jurisdictions and how that is turning out.”