State of public emergency timely — Owen Ellington

Friday, January 19, 2018

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FORMER Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington is offering that the state of public emergency placed on St James yesterday is very timely and should boost the capabilities of the security forces to deal with the rampant crime situation in the country.

“It's timely. You have to go by what the prime minister has said that they have arrived at this position after careful planning and thought. So, for those of us who do not have the kind of information that they have and are without the statistics, it is timely,” Ellington, who was commissioner of police at the time of the country's last state of emergency in 2010, said.

He further offered that with the 'extraordinary powers' given to the security forces under the state of public emergency, the possiblity of dealing in an effective manner with crime is greatly enhanced.

Ellington then noted that in the event the security forces request an extension of the state of public emergency that it be given favourable consideration because the problem cannot be remedied within a month.

“Even if you have some good results in the early days, that is no indication that, if you let up, things will remain good. So, I think they should be given the time, resources and the patience of the country and the Government to get it right, once and for all,” he suggested.

He told the Jamaica Observer that while some might want a state of emergency to be extended to other parts of the country they must understand that resources are limited. Ellington also argued that it makes no sense to declare in other parts of the country and not be able to respond with resources.

“In light of what is happening, I think there is justification for St James over any other parish and I really don't believe that there is need for a national state of emergency,” he declared, adding that the security forces will be alerted to the possibility of criminals migrating to other parishes.

Ellington, while acknowledging that the security forces will have extraordinary powers and can also search places and people without warrants, said that this is no breach of human rights.

He noted that if members of the security forces have good reasons to arrest a person they can do so, even without a state of emergency. He outlined that they can arrest on view, suspicion, or argument of a third person.

“There's no real need for any bashing of the security forces and raising the false alarm about human rights unless there is evidence of it. I think also that the prime minister and minister of justice have also made it very clear that, notwithstanding the extraordinary powers given to the security forces during the period of emergency, they are expecting that citizens' rights will be upheld and I am certain that the security forces, the heads and the commanders, understand that this is imperative and will do their best to ensure the protection of human rights.

“So I wouldn't be distracted by those who always have something to say. I think that the security forces should just focus on the task at hand and just get it done in the interest of the wider public,” said Ellington.

He also urged members of the public to provide information to the security forces.

“Rather than be concerned, I think that citizens should summon the courage to call and report illegal activities. They can call and text. They have all the avenues to do so. If everybody comes on board it can have a very positive impact on the country's crime problem.”

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