Former police chief wants 'clean sweep' of criminals in constabulary
Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin

REAR Admiral Hardley Lewin, a former commissioner of police, who also served as chief of staff of the Jamaica Defence Force, said “it is no secret that there are criminals in the constabulary force”, and called Wednesday for a “clean sweep”, following last Friday's arrest of four cops suspected of being gang members.

“From the recent incident, my takeaway from it is a positive one because it is no secret that there are criminals in the force, they did not join as criminals, they morphed,” Lewin told Wednesday's launch of the Annual State of Justice Report at the Jamaica Pegasus in St Andrew.

According to the former police chief, he had long indicated the state of affairs in the police force, but had been lambasted for doing so.

“I addressed the Jamaica Employers Federation in 2008, and I said emphatically that there are criminals in the force, and I was pilloried and harangued by all sorts of people, but I didn't relent. My takeaway from this incident is a positive one: discover them, clean them out, and clear them out,” he said emphatically.

The Counter-Terrorism and Organised Crime Investigations (C-TOC) Branch of the constabulary on Friday announced the arrest of four constables suspected of being members of the Clarendon-based Ronko Gang.

The criminal outfit is also said to be headed by a police constable, who was arrested on a previous occasion.

Lewin, who made his remarks while commenting on the issue of the police being empowered to investigate their own through bodies such as the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM), had prefaced his declaration by saying, “An individual who has the powers of a constable is amongst the most powerful persons in Jamaica. A criminal who has the powers of a constable is amongst the most dangerous persons in Jamaica.”

On Wednesday, director of the Institute of Criminal Justice and Security at The University of the West Indies, retired Professor Anthony Harriott, wading in on the issue of the police investigating their own, said, “The police have a responsibility to investigate their own. They ought to be the persons most vested in safeguarding their integrity.So I don't believe in denying them the capacity so to do. I believe we should hold them to account in doing it. But the society needs a second line of defence, that is why we now have INDECOM. So the issue is not to diminish [it] but to better enable INDECOM to cope with the role.”

Meanwhile, commissioner of INDECOM Hugh Faulkner, in responding to concerns raised by Jamaicans For Justice (JFJ) in its report about INDECOM being donor-funded and fears that it might affect its independent functioning, said, “We have assistance, but we do not have trespass.”

“Firstly, donors are contributors to the work of INDECOM. The Government of Jamaica is the major contributor to the work of INDECOM, but I will be pressing for additional funding to strengthen INDECOM in our first quarter report for this calendar year,” Faulkner said.

“INDECOM has a partnership with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office that provides us with funding, and I must say that this has been helpful in assisting our resource needs, our technical needs, and our equipment needs, and the legislative policy of INDECOM is the exclusive domain of the Jamaican Parliament. The operational aspects of INDECOM are the exclusive domain of INDECOM,” he added.

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleywillisa@jamaicaobserver.com

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