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'Alexandria cops lied'

Published:Wednesday | February 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

AT LEAST two cops that testified before the com-mission of enquiry into the deadly fire at the Armadale Juvenile Correctional Centre for girls were not deemed truthful.

Commissioner Justice Paul Harrison, in his report, concluded that constables Lawrence Burrell and Roogae Rowland lied to the commission.

The commissioner found that Burrell, one of two police personnel who responded to the disturbance on May 22, 2009, used unlawful force when he discharged a tear gas canister into the dormitory office where 23 girls were housed. The tear gas, which is believed to have caused the fire, resulted in the death of seven of the girls.

"The discharge of the tear gas canister into the dormitory by Constable Burrell was harsh and unnecessary," Harrison said in his report.

Accusations denied

When Burrell appeared before the commission, he denied discharging a tear gas canister into the dormitory office. He said when he responded to the disturbance, he had a tear gas device, which he called a "bombing ball", between the two front buttons of the polo shirt he was wearing. He denied discharging it.

However, after analysing the evidence, Harrison said: "I do not believe Constable Burrell when he said he discovered the 'bombing ball' was no longer attached to his shirt after the firefighters came and the area was cooled down."

He added: "I find that Constable Burrell, annoyed and enraged by the disorderly conduct of the girls and the continuing expletives directed at him, left Armadale with the express purpose to obtain a tear gas device and returned with a tear gas canister. He did not have a tear gas ball."

Harrison also said Rowland was an "untruthful witness". Rowland had denied issuing Burrell a tear gas canister on the fateful night. Harrison also rejected evidence of two other police personnel at the station as untrue and evidentially invalid.

While noting that a station diary is not a public document, Harrison said the treatment of same by some officers at the Alexandria Police Station "was in breach of settled rules in the Jamaica Constabulary Force and clearly wrong, by the omissions and false entries".