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Fall-off in police killings linked to Clarendon probe

Published:Thursday | April 17, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

The widening investigation into allegations that some members of the Clarendon police are engaged in extra-judicial killings has been cited as one of the reasons for the near 50 per cent fall-off in police killings in the first quarter of this year.

At the same time, Jamaicans for Justice (JFJ), the local human- rights lobby that made the assertion, has cautioned that the first-quarter reduction in police- involved fatalities was not something to celebrate just yet.

"Where policemen believe they can operate with impunity, there is the likelihood that they will break the law or not operate within the regulations," JFJ spokesperson Susan Goffe asserted.

"So I don't think we can rule out the impact of the arrests, the investigation and the attention being shone on police killings ... the level and nature of some of these allegations," she reasoned.

Goffe added: "I am not positing that as the sole reason, but I would think that has to be counted in there as one of the contributing factors."

This assertion was, however, dismissed by Deputy Commissioner Glenmore Hinds, who argued that Clarendon was just one parish.

Instead, Hinds posited that the men and women of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) were paying greater attention to its use-of-force policy and the standard operating procedures developed to guide it.

"Every day we improve on our operation planning and execution," he underscored.

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In addition, he said the police have been appealing to criminal suspects to surrender when they are accosted and "we believe they are hearing us".

Yesterday, the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM) - the agency probing the allegations against members of the Clarendon police - reported that there were 40 security force-related fatalities between January and March this year.

According to INDECOM, this is a 47 per cent decline or 36 fatalities less than was reported over the corresponding period last year. There were 60 security force-related deaths in 2011 and 66 in 2012.

However, Goffe said: "We can't comfortably say that what we are seeing is a real trend, so I would want to withhold commendation for a while longer," she said.

Eight policemen attached to the Clarendon police have been arrested and charged with murder and other crimes arising from the probe being conducted by INDECOM. The oversight body said it is probing other cases.