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FRONT-PAGE EDITORIAL - Rebuild trust in the police

Published:Saturday | April 17, 2010 | 12:00 AM

THE INCREASED efforts by the police to prosecute, or retire in the public interest, corrupt members of the force must be acknowledged. More officers, perhaps, have faced the courts for corruption, and other forms of behaviour in the past three years or so, than the previous two decades.

But despite these signs of energy against dishonest cops, Jamaicans remain cynical about the integrity of the police force and believe that far more needs to be done to rebuild public trust and confidence in the constabulary.

Their doubt rests primarily on two planks: the perception that recent prosecutions and convictions have been mostly of junior cops while senior officers remain largely insulated; and that corruption in the police force is so endemic that it requires a major overhaul rather than marginal fixes.

Big job

In other words, the national security minister, Senator Dwight Nelson, and the acting police commissioner, Mr Owen Ellington, have a big job of convincing Jamaicans that the police are worthy of their trust and that the constabulary is capable of confronting, and defeating, the country's worsening crisis of criminality.

Mr Ellington should, within the next month, offer to the public a comprehensive programme, and an operational strategy, for rebuilding the integrity of the police force.

This plan must contain specific deliverables, timetables for implementation and expected results. Mr Ellington must make himself responsible and accountable for outcomes, positive or negative.

Supportive policy environment

But Mr Ellington, who has operational responsibility for the police, will require a supportive policy environment for success. The latter is the responsibility of Minister Nelson.

Mr Ellington, therefore, must make public what he expects, and requires, of his minister and how the proposed ministerial actions will, in specific terms, impact the performance of the police. Mr Nelson must be held accountable for performance.

It would be useful, too, if Mr Nelson articulated, assuming such a programme exists, a broader government strategy for creating an environment conducive to a lower crime rate, particularly fewer murders.

As he is at it, Mr Nelson might remind the country what has become of Dr Herbert Thompson's report for reforming the police force and the status of the oversight committee that was established for its implementation.