Government, Opposition throw support behind embattled police commissioner
Arthur Hall, Senior News Editor
Under-pressure Police Commissioner Owen Ellington is continuing to receive the backing of the Government and the parliamentary opposition, at least in public, even as the whispers grow louder that he is on his way out.
In an unprecedented move last Friday, Ellington issued a release defending his stewardship.
"I welcome feedback and criticism from all quarters on my leadership and the overall performance of the police," said Ellington, even as he challenged the basis for the resignation calls.
But with several incidents in the past few months which have given the police force a black eye, there have been talk that the Government is getting ready to say goodbye to Ellington, despite repeated endorsements from National Security Minister Peter Bunting.
In late February, Bunting told journalists, "He (Ellington) has been successful, and we expect him to continue that success … . He will get the support of myself, as minister, and of the administration."
Since then, Ellington and the men and women under his command have seen their public approval rating plummet with the arrest and subsequent failure to charge two St James councillors in connection with the lottery scam, the arrest of a high-profile senior superintendent on corruption charges, and the fatal shooting of a pregnant woman in St Thomas, among other questionable incidents.
But last Friday, Bunting told The Sunday Gleaner that his confidence in Ellington has not been shaken by recent incidents.
"I see no reason not to continue to give Ellington my support," said Bunting, even as he sought to distance the People's National Party (PNP) from calls for the resignation of the commissioner.
Last week, an organisation linked to the PNP went public with its demand for Ellington's resignation, while persons close to the Government were telling friends and confidants that the new commissioner has already been identified.
"All that is left now is for the arranging of his compensation package and then Ellington will resign," one source close to the governing PNP told The Sunday Gleaner.
"His successor is already decided on, but it will not be the senior cop whose name is being bandied around," claimed the source.
NOT PARTY'S POSITION
As those whispers grew louder and the call for Ellington's resignation sounded from the PNP's headquarters - albeit from the party's youth organisation — Bunting said this was not the official position of the party.
"The position expressed by Junior Rose (president of the PNP Youth Organisation) is his personal position and not that of the party." said Bunting.
"He has a right to his own opinions, but not his own facts. I need to make it clear that even without the exact numbers, I know that fatal shootings by the police were down about 15 per cent from 2010 to 2011 and that trend has continued with an approximately 15 per cent reduction year to date when compared with last year," added Bunting.
The security minister's comments came hours after the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party demanded that he should distance the administration from the call for Ellington's resignation.
"Ellington, in my judgement, has been one of the best commissioners of police that Jamaica has had since Independence, and I am extremely disappointed that the minister of national security, Peter Bunting, has not come out to rebuke the outrageous call from the president of the PNP Youth Organisation," declared Delroy Chuck, the opposition spokesman on national security.
"I consider the call by the PNP Youth Organisation for Ellington to resign to be preposterous and bordering on almost insanity," Chuck told The Sunday Gleaner.
"I think the present commissioner has served this country very well. He has shown a level of professionalism and is definitely focused on removing indiscipline, corruption and unprofessionalism from the (police) force," added Chuck.
According to Chuck, if there are members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) who want to see Ellington replaced, it would be because of his determination to remove corrupt and inefficient cops from the system.
HIGH MARKS FOR ELLINGTON
The opposition spokesman said he would grade Ellington at a seven or eight out of 10 for his performance as commissioner since he was appointed to the post in 2010.
"I would not give him a perfect score because there are challenges in the force and, certainly, … there are concerns about the number of police killings, even though it is lower than it was in previous years.
"And certainly, there are many challenges to his leadership because of a lack of resources and the difficulty he has with the police force itself."
Rose's call for the immediate resignation of Ellington was based on what he said was "the alarming number of extrajudicial killings by police officers with little effort or success from the police commissioner to stem this frightening trend".
According to Rose, Ellington's tenure has been one fraught with the killing of hundreds of Jamaicans by the police.
"The PNPYO believes that the commissioner's jacket is soiled by the blood of those who have been gunned down by the police," added Rose.
According to Rose: "The PNPYO believes in light of the clear failure of Commissioner Owen Lloyd Ellington due to an evident increase in police extrajudicial killings and a decrease in the respect for citizens' rights to life, it is time for a new commissioner with a new vision and direction to assume leadership of the JCF."
I see no reason not to continue to give Ellington my support. … Even without the exact numbers, I know that fatal shootings by the police were down about 15 per cent from 2010 to 2011 and that trend has continued with an approximately 15 per cent reduction year to date when compared with last year.
- Delroy Chuck, opposition spokesman on National Security
Ellington … has been one of the best commis-sioners of police that Jamaica has had since Independence … . (He) has served this country very well.