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Police commander defends Tivoli operations

Published:Wednesday | June 3, 2015 | 6:42 PMLivern Barrett

The man who commanded police personnel on the ground during the May 2010 Tivoli Gardens operations has said he saw no weaknesses in how it was conducted and that he was not aware of the atrocities reported by residents.

Assistant Commissioner of Police Donovan Graham told the West Kingston Commission of Enquiry yesterday that he had no reports that the men and women under his command engaged in any unlawful acts and insisted that when they left the Mobile Reserve Division in St Andrew, none of them were wearing masks.

Instead, Graham, who was testifying during cross-examination by senior counsel to the commission Garth McBean, said the operation could have been completed in a shorter time with less confrontation with criminals if the police had better resources.

"Better resources probably in terms of more armoured personnel carriers, that would have caused the insertion to be done in a shorter time. Probably, we would have captured [drug kingpin Christopher 'Dudus'] Coke and there wouldn't be the need for that extended fire fight," said Graham, a senior superintendent at the time.

no weakness detected

Despite this, he insisted he did not detect any weaknesses in the conduct of the operation, which was aimed at arresting Coke.

"Looking back at the operations, in your assessment, were there any weaknesses that you identified?" McBean questioned.

"I wouldn't say so," Graham replied.

Residents in the west Kingston community have given numerous accounts of atrocities they say were committed by members of the security forces, some of whom they claimed wore masks.

Graham recalled that at the end of the operations, then Police Commissioner Owen Ellington, relayed to him, in a telephone conversation, complaints by residents that members of the security forces were abusing them.

As a result, he said he visited Tivoli Gardens "to check for myself" and that's when he saw injured residents and at least one body.

Graham said when he entered what he described as the 'area of operation', he saw the body of a man on a handcart with a gunshot wound. He said residents reported that they did not know who shot him, but were trying to get him medical attention when they realised that he had died.

Earlier, the commission heard testimony from Deputy Commissioner Clifford Blake - the police officer who crafted the tactical plan for the operations - that it is "always desirable" to have warrants for fugitives signed secretly.

Blake was responding to questions about the decision of then Prime Minister Bruce Golding, to announce, in a Nationwide broadcast, that he had authorised then Attorney General Dorothy Lightbourne to proceed with Coke's extradition.