Carl Gilchrist, Gleaner Writer
Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington has warned members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) that drastic action would be taken against any cop who is found to be associated with gangs.
Addressing the Police Federation conference at the Sunset Jamaica Grande in St Ann on Thursday, Ellington predicted that if the drug trade was not sufficiently disrupted, criminals would always have resources to purchase guns and ammunition.
He said the counter-gang strategies being pursued by the JCF, with support from the military, must continue.
"I have said to my senior staff and my planners that we shouldn't start 2011 with any criminal gangs out there with the kind of capabilities that can pose any formidable threat to any community, certainly not the members of the security forces.
"If there is any policeman who is associated with, or part of any criminal gangs, as soon as we find out, we're going to give you all the time in the world to stay with the gang. But there can be no coexistence between law enforcement and criminal gangsterism; no apology for that one," he said to much applause from the conference.
Ellington said he has been moving hard on cops who are allegedly linked to gangs, and that this has ruffled some feathers. He said, however, that his stance will remain.
The top cop revealed that he had come under a lot of fire for his clampdown on corruption.
"I'm told that I'm moving too hard on some people and some of these people are frontliners who have recovered a whole heap of guns before, confronted many bad men before.
"I've said to the officers who come to me, as recent as yesterday (Wednesday), these individuals, never mind that they recovered some guns, and may have confronted some gunmen out there, they are dangerous people because as long as they are on the force, they have access to your (police) guns, your bullets, your information, your colleagues, your mobility, and they can use that to the advantage of criminal gangs and they can disrupt you, they can kill you."
Despite some criticism from within the force, it paled in comparison to the positive feedback, Ellington said.
"Since we've started to move on some of those individuals, we're getting better support from the public. Policemen are feeling more confident carrying out their duties because they no longer have to work with some of those people," he told the audience.
For the first seven months of 2010, 149 rogue cops have been removed from the force, as a corruption clampdown has gone into overdrive.
Of that number, 105 were barred from re-enlisting after their old contracts expired. The others were dismissed, either through retirement in the public interest or for corruption-related issues, particularly bribery.