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'It was like stepping back in time'

Les Green knocks Ja in British press

Monday, February 04, 2013    

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FORMER Assistant Commissioner of Police detective Les Green has painted a hellish picture of his eight-year tour of duty in Jamaica with a job he said was a "tremendous strain".

In a story in yesterday's edition of British newspaper the Mirror, Green told of a place where life is cheap, guns rule and drugs are rife. He also spoke of a level of violence that took some getting used to, even though he had a background investigating shootings in London's Jamaican community as part of Scotland Yard's Operation Trident team.

Green, who arrived in Jamaica in 2004, was one of three officers from the United Kingdom brought in to serve in the Jamaica Constabulary Force. What should have been a stay of several months turned into years and a promotion to Acting Commissioner of Police. While here, he set up the now disbanded Operation Kingfish. He also set up the Serious and Organised Crime Branch — which encompasses the Major Investigation Task Force and the Fraud Squad — while working with the Criminal Investigation Branch.

"I arrived in October and it was very pleasant weather, warm and sunny. Arriving at Kingston, down by the waterfront, it looks very pleasant, Jamaica is a beautiful island and there are fantastic people there, but what I found pretty quickly was while most people can go about their lives comfortably and happily, there are a cluster of places where violence is likely to break out at any moment. The main problem is drugs, and it is drugs which allow access to easy money which is then spent on weapons," he told the UK paper.

According to him, "unlike the UK, the answer to conflict is very quickly violence and extreme violence. There were occasions when there were several murders in one attack. Once we had 13 different firearms used in one attack on a house," he is reported to have said.

Green said while Jamaica shows signs of progress on the surface it is overshadowed by a seamy underside.

"When you start to look at the more deprived areas, you see a very different Jamaica from the postcards. A lot of the houses look like shacks and are of wooden construction with corrugated iron roofs.They are very close together with tight alleyways which are ideal for ambushing police officers when they are looking for criminals," he said.

He, however, conceded that on the whole, the West Indian people were very welcoming and were often concerned for his safety.

"People are very aware about how important tourism is and keep their eyes out for you. I actually had a lot of problems going to crime scenes because they thought I was a tourist and they would literally stand in front of my car trying to stop me going into these areas," he is reported to have said.

In the Mirror article, the forensic capabilities of the force and its members also came in for harsh criticism.

"When I started as a 16-year-old cadet, the police radio was about the limit of the technology. Then I witnessed a real revolution with computers and forensic science. In Jamaica, it was like stepping back in time. When I first went there the forensic capability was very poor and ineffective," Green told the media entity.

"There it still takes up to two years to get DNA results, unlike in the UK where you can get them in two days. In Jamaica, there is nothing like the sense of urgency I had in the UK where I would send someone out to take a statement and they would do it immediately. Here I could send someone out for weeks on end and eventually they would come back with a statement," he added.

"If a pretty girl walks past they will look at the pretty girl instead of what they are doing. There is always tomorrow, always another time to do something. There's always a drink or a pretty woman to distract them," he said.

"It would take an age to get any official documentation because everything is paper and you physically have to go and collect the paperwork. It was frustrating, painstaking and you have to have a very methodical mind to manage that process especially dealing with 1,600 murders a year," Green reportedly said.

Other challenges to which the cop made reference were the tropical climate and the Jamaican patois. His complexion, however, was a plus.

"It played to my advantage being white skinned because the people trusted white- skinned people much more than they would trust a black officer," he shared.

According to Green the job which he said good-bye to in 2012 is not one he misses.

"Most people's view is Jamaica is somewhere you go and enjoy the sun and the beach and sit around drinking rum, but it is not all like that. It was a tremendous strain over the eight years," he said.

Green's utterances to the Mirror are in stark contrast to his statements to the Jamaica Observer before he left the island in July last year. Then, the former Assistant Commissioner said he was won over by the island's beauty and the warmth of its people towards him.

"Jamaica is a wonderful place with wonderful people. Wherever I have gone I have enjoyed it," he told the Observer.

At the time, he said he had his sights set on coming back to Jamaica to assist with further training in law enforcement.

"I will definitely be coming back to assist in whatever way I can," Green said then.

"I had very good relationships with my colleagues. I will be very sad to say good-bye," he added.

When the Observer contacted the JCF's director of communication Karl Angell yesterday he said he was unaware of the contents of the Mirror article.

"We have not seen it as yet. We will have to look at it and assess it, but there is no certainty that a statement will be made (regarding the report)", he told the Observer.

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