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Ellington points to significant upgrade of police forensic capabilities

BY VERNON DAVIDSON Executive editor - publications davidsonv@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 03, 2013    

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COMMISSIONER Owen Ellington appears pleased that the police force's forensic capabilities have been upgraded with new equipment and technology, as well as training for staff. Now, he is anxious to have the expertise gained by the constabulary tested in the courts.

"There are some very important cases to come to court soon, and I think there's one in court now which, if we get an opportunity, we can put on display some of the new investigative techniques that we've developed over recent years," Ellington told reporters and editors at the weekly Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange yesterday.

According to the police commissioner, such an opportunity would be good for the constabulary as "we need to test our techniques in a court of law to see if they can stand up to the rigours of a defence strategy".

Ellington was giving an update on the police force's forensic resources which, he said, have been significantly upgraded over the past five years.

For instance, the chemistry lab on Old Hope Road in Kingston has been equipped with brand new microscopes, and the police force is now eTrace-compliant, "meaning that every gun that we find in Jamaica we are able to enter it on the ATF database, through the eTrace programme", Ellington explained.

The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) explains that eTrace, or Electronic Tracing System, is an Internet-based scheme "that allows participating law enforcement agencies to submit firearm traces to the ATF National Tracing Centre. Authorised users can receive firearm trace results via this same Internet website, search a database of all firearm traces submitted by their individual agency, and perform analytical functions".

Ellington also said that the constabulary is involved in the Regional Integrated Ballistic Identification Network, a Canada-managed project under which the investigation and prosecution capacities of Caricom member states are enhanced via identification and tracking of guns through ballistic identification and information-sharing.

The staff development aspect of the forensic upgrade, Ellington said, has seen the constabulary training its own ballistics experts under a programme between the University of the West Indies and Forensics Technology Inc in the USA.

"We have graduated about 15 people, but of that number around 10 have already reached expert status and have been so appointed, so there is significant expansion of that capability," Ellington said.

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