Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Eyes on Ellington: INDECOM to probe former commish's handling of 'death squad' cops

Published:Thursday | February 5, 2015 | 2:00 AM

Livern Barrett, Gleaner Writer

The Independent Commission of Investi-gations (INDECOM) yesterday confirmed for the first time that its probe of the so-called police 'death squad' killings in Clarendon would include retired Police Commissioner Owen Ellington.

However, INDECOM Commissioner Terrence Williams quickly sought to dispel any notion that Ellington was the subject of a criminal investigation.

Williams, who was speaking during a press conference at his New Kingston office, said Ellington's involvement in the probe would focus on how members of the Clarendon police were being supervised at the time of the alleged killings and how their conduct was reviewed.

"It's an investigation of the commanders to see how they supervised the persons under their command, how they reviewed their conduct, [and] how they selected persons … ," he said.

"If you are investigating the command structure of the [Clarendon] division, you also have to investigate the command structure of the person they report to, which would eventually mean the commissioner of police."

Yesterday, Howard Mitchell, who acted as Ellington's spokesman after his sudden retirement last year, said he was "pretty sure" that the former police commissioner was not aware of the probe, but acknowledged that it was within INDECOM's remit.

Mitchell said as far as he was aware, Ellington has not been asked to cooperate with any investigation by INDECOM. He pointed out that Williams' statement made it clear that the former police chief was not the subject of the probe.

"I don't have any problems with it and I don't think he does either," Mitchell said, while noting that he was no longer serving as Ellington's spokesman.

11 COPS CHARGED

Eleven policemen who were all attached to the Clarendon police are now before the courts on multiple murder charges. The men have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Last April, after The Gleaner first reported the existence of so-called police death squads that target known criminals, INDECOM revealed that its investigations had turned up eight cases in which nine civilians were killed in Clarendon. According to the oversight body, the shootings were initially reported to have been carried out by civilian gunmen.

"They were reported as civilians-on-civilians or civilians-on-gunmen homicides. And so they were reported to the police and would have been among the police file as unsolved homicides. What we have now discovered is that there is great reason to believe that they were, indeed, police-involved homicides," Williams said then.

Yesterday, the INDECOM boss declined to comment on a motive for the killings, saying that would be outlined in court when the trial gets under way.

Meanwhile, senior public relations officer at INDECOM, Kahmile Reid, revealed that Jamaica recorded 129 security forces-related deaths last year, a 50 per cent decline when compared to the 258 recorded in 2013.

Of this number, 115 persons were fatally shot, 11 died in police stations and lock-ups, six died in custody at correctional facilities, two died in car crashes and one died by poisoning.

In addition, Reid said 84 police personnel were now before the courts, 53 of whom are charged with murder.

livern.barrett@gleanerjm.com