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EDITORIAL - A tough, grubby road for Mr Ellington

Published:Monday | February 4, 2013 | 12:00 AM

We were impressed with the speed and forthrightness with which the police chief, Mr Owen Ellington, interdicted six instructors of the Police Academy over last week's incident at the school in which one recruit was shot dead and five wounded.

But whatever the eventual outcome of the investigation into the specifics of incident, the tragedy, to us, is symptomatic of the deep problems faced by the constabulary and a reminder of the scale of the task that still lies ahead of Mr Ellington.

The sketchy information so far available suggests that recruits were involved in some kind of firearm training when the incident happened.

But it seems, on the face of it, that rules were broken and that individuals may have been grossly negligent.

According to Mr Ellington, the rule is that live ammunition is banned from the academy's tactical training village. In that regard, it should have been almost impossible for anyone to have been shot during a training exercise there.

Mr Ellington was concerned, too, that the persons in charge were not immediately forthcoming with credible information, raising, in his mind, doubts that the incident was an "accident" and "whether there is any attempt to cover up".

On the matter of live ammunition in the tactical training village, contrary to the rules, this newspaper, and we dare say, most Jamaicans, would not be surprised that it occurred.

Such a breach suggests an absence of discipline, for which the constabulary is notorious, exemplified in the too-numerous cases of breaches of the police's use-of-force policy, weak record keeping on firearms, and the breakdown of other factors of accountability, whether at police stations or in the management or repair of motor vehicles.


If, indeed, there was an attempt at a cover-up in the latest incident, the public will presume that to be par for the course. In other words, although there has been some improvement, trust in the police remains weak.

An institution like the Independent Commission of Investigations, which probes shootings and serious claims of misbehaviour by the police, can help in the rebuilding of that trust. But that is only part of it.

More fundamental is the hard work to be done inside the organisation, to weed out the corrupt, ineffective and inefficient and to modernise its management systems. This presumes a radical shift of culture from a 'cronyistic' jackbooted institution, to a service-oriented one that polices with the citizens' full trust and consent.

There is a still a tough, grubby road ahead for Mr Ellington.

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