One year on, Police Complaints Authority still leaderless
Unresolved complaints pile up
By Sam Strangeways
Government House is soon to advertise for a new chairman for the Police Complaints Authority, which has been without one for more than a year.
The volunteer board has built up a backlog of unresolved complaints about officers since 2008 and has had no chairman since lawyer Anthony Whaley resigned for unknown reasons after serving for less than a year.
Governor George Fergusson told
The Royal Gazette this week: “Funding has been agreed in the last month for independent funding for the authority’s own investigative capacity, following which we are about to go ahead with open advertising for the [chairman] role.”
Finance Minister Bob Richards announced in the Budget in February that the PCA would get an extra $30,000 this financial year, on top of its usual $20,000 allocation, for a “part-time investigator to properly deal with complaints made against the police, thereby increasing public confidence that rights and freedoms are highly valued in this society”.
A Ministry of Public Safety spokeswoman said yesterday that an investigator had not been appointed yet.
She said the $30,000 to pay for the position would come from the Ministry HQ’s budget and would be “vired to the PCA as required in support of the additional investigative resource”.
Former authority chairman Michelle St Jane has previously said that $20,000 was “definitely insufficient” for the PCA to operate effectively and that it needed a “hands on, knowledgeable director” even if the role was part-time.
She said hiring a part-time investigator would be a “move forward” but added: “Sadly, the lack of a director and real staffing is still at issue.
“I have spent time with Governor Fergusson and, before the election, with the new [Public Safety] Minister [Michael] Dunkley. Sadly, they have not really moved things forward on [this] cornerstone of democracy.”
Ms St Jane said money and effort was spent on a website for the authority, which should have launched in early 2011, but it never happened.
And she said many of the “gaps” highlighted in her 2010 annual report remained unaddressed.
The PCA is required in law to report on the “exercise of its functions” each year and the Public Safety Minister has to table the report in Parliament.
The last report tabled was the one for 2010, which noted that 540 complaints had been filed since 2000.
Information provided by Government this week shows that in 2011/12, only 15 percent of complaints to the PCA were resolved within two to three months of being received.
The forecasted outcome for 2012/13 is 22 percent, with a target for this fiscal year of 30 percent.
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