Horace Levy | Restructure top level of JCF
The report that emerged from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) administrative review is not the easy problem it might appear to be. And Police Commissioner George Quallo's rapid reversal of his stand by it has manifestly not closed the matter.
Together these events have raised a string of issues, one of which goes to the heart of policing in Jamaica. This column touches on only three 'front-page' aspects, the first two demanding immediate action, the third requiring implementation in the very near future.
First, if Mr Quallo's reversal of his stand is to be taken seriously as a real grasp of what the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry (COE) was driving at, then sending it to the Police Service Commission looks too much like a dodge. The public nature of the administrative review and of his acceptance of the COE and the Government's position obliges the commissioner to be explicit and public in its withdrawal. It is imperative for his own stature that Mr Quallo take this bold step.
Second, assigning ACP Donovan Graham to the top St James post cannot be justified by claiming that ground commanders are responsible for operations. Directly, yes, but answering to him surely, and therefore putting him, Graham, ultimately in operational charge. Public Defender Arlene Harrison Henry has made this point very sharply and has been joined by other senior cops.
Mr Quallo's appointment must also be challenged on the deeper grounds of the gravity of Graham's misdemeanour in May 2010, which drew the COE's severe recommendation that he never again have operational responsibility. Graham in May 2010 held a very senior post. Along with four others, he systematically failed to record the location of dead bodies. But it is important for Jamaica to understand that this was not the mere violation of a minor rule that could be dismissed as a piece of bureaucracy. Neglect of records could be, and in fact was at times, at the Mobile Reserve in particular, the planned practice of some police to cover up the wrongful killing of civilians.
In the Tivoli Gardens incursion, there was a need for the cover-up. On credible evidence, at least 15 to 20 young men - the actual figure from the analysis carried out by the Office of the Public Defender was probably closer to 47 - were illegitimately slain by police constables and soldiers right after the Tivoli resistance was quelled. A massacre it literally was.
With the Bureau of Special Investigations under ACP Granville Gause not coming in to do its forensic job on the killing sites until 10 days later, the cover-up was complete. By that time most of the spent shells were missing, blood stains had been washed away by rain, and other signs of gory mass murder were also gone.
This is the Donovan Graham who has been put in charge of St James. But there is more. As the most senior JCF ground commander in the incursion, he was responsible for the "arbitrary and unreasonable" detention - illegally, therefore, in the judgement of the COE - of the nearly 3,000 who were indiscriminately scraped up and held, some of them, in very poor conditions. Of that number, only 139 were eventually kept for further investigation.
Third, there is what the administrative review says about the senior level of the JCF. In both its manner of handling evidence, which is appallingly bad, and its consequent exoneration of its members, the review points to a damning inability at a senior level to arrive at a decent self-assessment. Commissioner Quallo's standing by the review only reinforces that conclusion. In requesting an administrative review, the COE clearly did not expect anything like what has emerged.
What then necessarily follows, as put forward in a recent release from Jamaicans For Justice, is the need to clear out a significant portion of the JCF's top level, at least if any real reform of the JCF is to take place. Section 10 of the Report of the National Committee on Crime and Violence of June 2002 says it succinctly: "Radically restructure top level of the JCF through early retirement of senior-level personnel". The earlier draft of this report is said to have called for the retirement of 80 per cent of the senior level.
We are not done yet with the issues stirred up by the administrative review led by ACP Wray Palmer. Surely, his own future at the top level is also due for review.