Thu | Apr 27, 2017

was the police motivated by anger

Published:Tuesday | June 2, 2015 | 6:00 AMLivern Barrett
Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Rose during cross-examination yesterday at the West Kingston commission of enquiry at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.

The briefing given to a contingent of police personnel in the hours before they were deployed to the west Kingston community of Tivoli Gardens in search of drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus' Coke came under much scrutiny yesterday.

The West Kingston commission of enquiry heard evidence from Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Rose that he and then police commissioner, Owen Ellington, briefed the nearly 150 policemen and women just before they left the Mobile Reserve Division in St Andrew.

Rose, however, faced a grilling from attorney for the Office of the Public Defender, Lord Anthony Gifford, who sought to underscore that the briefing took place hours after the security forces had been given emergency powers in a limited state of emergency and a day after two of their colleagues were ambushed and shot to death by criminals along Mountain View Avenue in St Andrew.

Rose, who headed the Mobile Reserve Division at the time, acknowledged that during the briefing he used the word 'war' twice, but sought to explain that it was used in the context of what members of the security forces faced in Coke's stronghold.

"It was meant to brought (sic) out the gravity of the situation that confronted us and what we faced," he underscored.

The enemy

Gifford also read from a statement released by Ellington at the start of the May 2010 operations, in which the words 'battle' and 'victory' were used.

"The questions which arise when you talk about war, victory and battle is (sic) who is the enemy and did you see, as you prepare your address, that the officers would think that all the young men of Tivoli [Gardens] were the enemy?" the attorney asked.

"No, sir. Nothing that was relayed to them by way of the briefing could ever convey that message," Rose responded.

"The difficulty that I have, and I wonder if you appreciated it at the time, is that there is a narrow line between dominating an area and terrorising it ... . Did you say anything to your officers to assist them to see that line and keep the right side of it?" Gifford questioned.

"Yes, sir, the briefing did indicate that," Rose replied.

Pointing to allegations made by residents of the west Kingston community of atrocities committed by the security forces, Gifford also questioned whether police personnel were affected by grief and anger following the deaths of their colleagues.

"Did it occur to you that there was a danger, given the loss of the officers by murder and the attacks on the police station, that some of your officers might wish to take revenge upon the citizens of Tivoli?" he questioned.

"No, sir, not in the slightest," Rose replied.

The former head of the Mobile Reserve Division said he was aware of the powers given to the police under a state of emergency and said this was also communicated to the police team before they departed for the operations.

The enquiry was established to probe, among other things, the conduct of the operations in which more than 70 civilians and one member of the Jamaica Defence Force were killed.

Deputy Commissioner of Police Clifford Blake is scheduled to take the witness stand when the enquiry continues today.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com