Welsh pulled over - JCF puts new man in driver’s seat at traffic division
The Police High Command has slammed the brakes on Assistant Commissioner of Police Bishop Dr Gary Welsh’s tenure as head of the traffic police after two months following a series of comments and actions which have drawn public criticisms about his handling of the portfolio.
Last night, the Jamaica Constabulary Force indicated in a release that Welsh was being immediately replaced as commander of the Public Safety and Traffic Enforcement Branch by ACP Dr Kevin Blake.
Blake, who was reportedly instrumental in designing the branch, has served at different periods as head of the police’s Area Three and Four regions, as well as at the Planning, Research and Development Branch.
Welsh faced backlash last week for pardoning Dennis Dietrih, who confessed to pulling off a daring stunt at a busy Corporate Area intersection more than a week ago. Since the police ordered Dietrih to apologise, a new recording of the incident has thrown open a probe to determine the true identity of the man behind the wheel.
The former JCF chaplain defended his decision, saying he was on a drive to educate motorists on the rules of the road before squeezing them for traffic violations. He also revealed that he had pardoned 140 motorists within a three-day period.
“I believe that I should educate people first before I hold them accountable. It took God six days to build the earth; don’t expect me to do it in one,” Welsh, who has been a bishop in the New Testament Church of God since 2004, commented last week.
The final straw came during the First International Symposium on Traffic Investigation and Black Box Analysis at Caribbean Maritime University on Monday, where Welsh indicated that come this weekend, a number of changes would be made to the traffic ticketing system.
“As of September 1, we are going to set up customer service centres for people who run afoul of the Road Traffic Act,” he said, outlining one such change. “You will not be pulled over on the highways or narrow corridors. Since the number of tickets seems to be mounting, we are going to be using summonses. This removes the option of just paying a fine. If someone is arrested on a bench warrant, we will take you to court when it is convenient.”
However, the police’s Corporate Communications Unit yesterday denied that such changes had been approved.
“The High Command of the JCF wishes to assure the public that there have been no changes to its policy regarding the processing of individuals being ticketed for breaches of the Road Traffic Act. We will intervene where necessary to keep traffic flowing and enforce [the laws], keeping in mind the necessity for traffic management essentially at peak times.
“The JCF is in a continuous process of seeking to improve relationships and interactions with the public, out of which a number of alternative proposals have been suggested. Despite some of the suggestions being erroneously aired in the public domain, the JCF’s policy remains unchanged and continues to be guided by rule of law in a respectful manner,” the JCF said.
Last night, Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson announced that Welsh was being reassigned, with Blake to take over at PSTEB.
There has been no indication on where Welsh, who was transferred from the Operations Branch to PSTEB last month, is headed.