Editorial

Commissioner Ellington’s departure: don’t ‘tek the nation fi fool’

Wednesday, July 09, 2014    

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OUR natural instinct in this space is to take people at face value and to want to believe the best in others, until we have credible reasons to believe otherwise.

The scepticism which has greeted the announcement of the departure of Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington is neither a happy nor unexpected one. And despite our best self, and our well-established support for Mr Ellington, we are finding it difficult to take the announcement at face value.

We have waited for just over a week to hear further clarification of the news, either from Mr Ellington or his representative or from the National Security Minister Mr Peter Bunting. But neither has been forthcoming.

The extremely short notice — barely 24 hours — given by the police commissioner to the nation; the fact that the management of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) learnt about it at the same time as the rest of us; the reasons given by Mr Ellington and confirmed by Minister Bunting; and critically, the fact that this is certainly one of the most accomplished top cops, are more than grounds for cynicism.

We are told that Commissioner Ellington's decision to retire is based on "the need to separate himself from the leadership and management of the Force prior to the commencement of the upcoming Commission of Enquiry into the conduct of the operations of the security forces in Western Kingston and other areas during the limited State of Emergency in 2010"; and "to allow the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) to conduct its investigation into allegations of police-involved killings in the Clarendon Division (some of which occurred during his tenure) without any perception of influence or interference on his part".

That explanation, as has been noted by others, gives rise to the question as to why Deputy Commissioner of Police Glenmore Hinds was appointed to act as police commissioner, while the Police Service Commission commences the search for Mr Ellington's replacement, since he (Mr Hinds) was integrally involved in the West Kingston operations. Unless, of course, the Commission expects to find a successor other than Mr Hinds prior to the commencement of the enquiry.

Frankly, we are also not accustomed to seeing successful persons, still healthy and who obviously have not completed their self-appointed tasks, getting up and leaving without answering any of the many related questions that are naturally generated.

The national security minister did not seem perturbed in his news release, despite acknowledging Mr Ellington's "contribution to improving the professionalism of the JCF and establishing strategies that have led to a significant reduction in crime and improvement in public security during his tenure as commissioner".

We think the nation is being treated rather shabbily in this instance. It might be okay to 'tek man fi fool', but it is a dangerous game we play when we also 'tek the nation fi fool'.

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