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400 cops booted since 2007

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, June 16, 2013    

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OVER 400 members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) have been dismissed since 2007, staining the organisation that, among other things, pledged to protect and serve the public, and poking more fingers at it from critics that corruption abounds within.

Police Commissioner Owen Ellington revealed in an exclusive Jamaica Observer article that the most robust anti-corruption strategy, which began in 2007, had been paying off.

Ellington, in his exclusive Sunday Observer piece, stated that most of the police personnel sent home were of questionable character which had the effect of besmirching the JCF. He was quick to add though, that while the number is significant, it is incomparable to the perceptible culture shift that has occurred within and outside of the Constabulary.

"The success of the anti-corruption strategy has also had a marked impact in the public sphere. In the first few years of its implementation, the Anti-Corruption Branch recorded more than 100 per cent annual increase in the number of reports against members of the Force. Last year, 2,240 reports were recorded, an average of six reports daily," the commissioner wrote in his article.

This increase in reports of police wrongdoing, Ellington said, points to strong approval by the public, because it means that citizens are confident that their reports will be handled in a fair and impartial manner, and that the investigations will be speedy, and a resolution sure.

"Jamaicans now understand that the men and women of the Force have taken an oath to serve, and as such, citizens have a right to demand that police officers are held accountable for the manner in which they exercise the powers granted to them by law," Ellington said.

The top lawman stated emphatically that the anti-corruption strategy has been supplemented by a strengthening and careful application of administrative tools available. These tools, he said, encompass the areas of recruitment, promotion and re-enlistment, rotation and separation.

"In terms of re-enlistment, the process is now more robust. A member seeking to be re-enlisted after serving a term of five years must satisfy the ethical obligations of the organisation. In addition to a medical examination, a process of due diligence which involves security vetting, a revision of the member's conduct, appearing before the Ethics Committee and being subjected to a polygraph test upon request, have become prerequisites to re-enlistment.

"The Constabulary Force Act gives the power to the Commissioner of Police to reduce the enlistment period or refuse any application for re-enlistment where it appears prudent to do so. Since 2010, some 236 members have been denied permission to re-enlist, using this method of screening," Commissioner Ellington revealed.

In espousing the progress of the JCF's anti-corruption initiative, the commissioner said in his article that the process went beyond the professional conduct of members.

"Equally important is that the Ethics Committee also investigates allegations of misconduct that may not be directly linked to the member's professional life. Refusing to pay a lawful debt is one such example.

"Therefore, comparable with our position of considerable power within the society, the management of the JCF is holding the members to ideals that outstrip the standards of expected behaviour anywhere within the wider public sector, and possibly the private sector as well," Ellington said.

The commissioner also made a strong appeal to the public, including what he called the JCF's most ardent detractors, for their continued support and feedback which are crucial to the success of internal efforts.

"You all deserve a trustworthy and efficient police service. As we do our part internally we appeal to you to keep the information flow alive and current," the police chief said.

See full text of the Commissioner's article on pages 27 and 36.

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