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Ellington hits back at PNPYO

Top cop rejects call for him to step down

Monday, September 10, 2012    

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POLICE Commissioner Owen Ellington has replied to a call by the People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO) for his head to be placed on the chopping block.

In a release to the media last week, the PNPYO called for Ellington's departure from the helm of the force due to a high rate of extra-judicial killings and police excesses.

"The PNPYO believes in light of the clear failure of Ellington due to an evident increase in police extra-judicial killings and a decrease in the respect for citizens' right to life, it is time for a new commissioner with a new vision and direction to assume leadership of the JCF," the release stated.

But Ellington, who was appointed acting commissioner in November 2009 following the departure of Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, and eventually appointed commissioner in April 2010, beat back the PNPYO's claims that there was high rate of police excesses.

"The records will show that fatal shootings by the police have been in decline in recent years. Indeed, the figures for 2012 show continuing decline, which, if it holds, could see this year ending with the lowest figure in seven years," he said.

He pointed out that statistics for the period 2006-2012 indicated that there was an average of 253 fatal shootings each year, with 2010 and 2008 recording the highest and lowest figures respectively, 320 in 2010, and 225 in 2008.

He also pointed out that violent crimes such as murder, shooting, robbery and sexual assault have decreased in the last three years.

In defending his tenure, Ellington said the following measures had been implemented to curb unwarranted violence by agents of the state:

* The listing of upholding of human rights as one of the strategic priorities of the Jamaica Constabulary Force;

* The Use of Force Policy has been revised and promulgated for the general information and guidance of all members of the force as well as to educate the public;

* All courses conducted within the JCF, from the basic recruit level to the commissioning ranks, include instructions on human rights, human dignity and the upholding of human rights, including use of force standards;

* All police promotional exams now include questions and/or case studies on human rights and use of force;

* All personnel going on duty are reminded in briefings about steps to be taken to minimise use of deadly force and protect human rights when executing their duties;

* The provision of less lethal options, which saw some 2,000 cans of mace/pepper spray being distributed to front-line personnel;

* Reminders are routinely given by 119 dispatchers to responding teams on measures to minimise use of force and protect citizens.

* Pro-active radio transmissions are made on the JCF radio net regularly, to all personnel on duty about key elements of the JCF use of force policy and rules of engagement;

* The JCF has developed and published a policy on police/citizen interaction, with the aim of ensuring that all contacts between the police and citizens are done with utmost courtesy, respect and care on the part of the police. This policy is taught in all levels of police training;

* The JCF has developed and published a policy on respect for diversity, in order to ensure all members accord respect, care and concern to all citizens irrespective of race, religion, sexual preference, political preference or any other form of diversity; and

* The JCF holds members accountable for breaches of force policy, including those on use of force. This has resulted in several arrests, suspensions, interdictions and internal disciplinary actions where appropriate.

"I welcome feedback and criticism from all quarters on my leadership and the overall performance of the Police. We are a learning organisation and a very responsive one as well," he said.

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