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Retired British cop urges Ja to exercise care in recruiting police from UK

— praises Ellington and Hinds

Thursday, July 10, 2014    

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A retired British police officer is urging Jamaica to exercise caution in considering more appointments to the constabulary from the United Kingdom, saying that there is widespread lack of confidence in cops in the chief officer rank in Britain.

At the same time, Chris Hobbs, who said he spent 18 months, between 2002 and 2010, collaborating with the Jamaican police, voiced strong endorsement of outgoing Police Commissioner Owen Ellington and Deputy Commissioner Glenmore Hinds, who is now acting as police chief after Ellington's sudden decision to retire last week.

The British police, Hobbs said, could do with senior officers of the calibre of both Ellington and Hinds.

Hobbs, who retired from the Metropolitan Police in July 2011 after 32 years' service, said in a letter to the Jamaica Observer yesterday that it was "with great sadness" that he learnt of Ellington's decision.

Hobbs said he was in Jamaica when Ellington was appointed police commissioner and revealed that there was initial concern among senior British officers that Ellington may not have been as supportive of UK/Jamaican co-operation as were his predecessors.

"They need not have worried," Hobbs said. "Although I never had the privilege of meeting Mr Ellington, I did have dealings with his two senior superintendents and was fully aware of his support for an operation which, using UK technology, would have disrupted the activities of individuals involved in serious organised criminality that travel on a daily basis between the UK and Jamaica."

Hobbs said he had the privilege of meeting Hinds on several occasions and noted that he, too, was supportive of the UK/Jamaica operation and won the respect of all British law enforcement officers he met.

"He is clearly a very able, dedicated man and the JCF does, at present, seem blessed with some very capable senior officers," Hobbs added.

"A word of warning, however, whilst the prodigious efforts of UK officers Mark Shields, Les Green and Justin Felice have clearly made a significant impact on improving the efficiency and image of the JCF, police staff surveys in nearly every UK force show a complete lack of confidence in those of chief officer rank," Hobbs said.

"British police morale has never been lower and indeed we could do with senior officers of the calibre of Mr Ellington and Mr Hinds in the UK. Take care if considering further appointments from the UK," Hobbs cautioned.

Noting that much has been said and written about the security forces' operation in West Kingston in May 2010 to capture former Tivoli Gardens don Christopher 'Dudus' Coke. Hobbs said he was in Jamaica the month before and had sensed the tension.

"This seemed much more than a gun battle between the Jamaican security forces and Christopher Coke's gangsters. Attempts were clearly made to draw in other dons and organised criminal gangs, many previously bitter rivals, into an alliance which would have amounted to an insurrection bordering on revolution," Hobbs said.

"This attempt failed due to the bravery of JCF and JDF officers who fought street battles, in what was clearly a war zone and to the reluctance of most of Jamaica's crime networks to be drawn into the conflict. Jamaica survived what appeared to be a real threat to its future and stability and for that credit must go to the leadership of both the JCF and the JDF," Hobbs said.

"That is not to say that alleged excesses by security forces should not be investigated but, looking at Jamaican issues from afar, it appears that Mr Ellington has been making determined efforts to root out corruption and reduce the number of persons killed by JCF officers. In all this, he seems to have retained the respect and loyalty of his officers, which is no mean feat in the circumstances," Hobbs said.

Last week, National Security Minister Peter Bunting stunned the country with the announcement of Ellington's decision to go on vacation leave and retire.

According to Bunting, the commissioner indicated that he "needed to separate himself from the leadership and management of the [police] 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".

"In addition, he believes it will allow the Independent Commission of Investigations 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," Bunting added.

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