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Owen's hard road - Police step up efforts to rid the force of corrupt cops

Published:Sunday | April 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Arthur Hall, Senior Gleaner Writer

Since the start of this year, 150 members of the force, including recently installed commissioner, Owen Ellington, have faced polygraph tests, but the Police High Command has not said how many have failed the tests.

"The commissioner had to be polygraphed before he got the job as commissioner," Assistant Commissioner of Police Justin Felice, head of the Anti-Corruption Branch, told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last week.

"There are two types of polygraph tests. There is the vetting, which is like a pre-employment or specialist unit test, and then there is a forensic test, which is used when there is a specific allegation against an individual," Felice said.

"This is bound to start changing behaviour. People are saying we have to start behaving ourselves because our careers could be over," added Felice as he revealed that some members of the force refused to do the test.

Felice, a career cop recruited from England, is leading the fight against corruption in the force and believes the message is getting home, with many honest cops now reporting instances of corruption and cases where they are offered bribes.

Long way to go

"I came here to do a job and I didn't realise how difficult it was going to be when I came off the plane, but I don't know whether my job is complete yet. I think there is a long way to go," Felice told the Editors' Forum.

"I'm getting feedback now from officers and the public that they are seeing signs of change. There is a glimmer of hope," added Felice.

He said that when the Anti-Corruption Branch was established in 2007, the first year was spent on raising the fear of detection in members of the force while the second year was focused on preventing acts of corruption.

"This year, one of the major tenets is the JCF cleansing programme, which is taking place. And we are looking at officers who are going into dedicated posts, officers going into sensitive posts. People who are going to be promoted are going to be subject to vetting and integrity testing," Felice said.

He said that there were 61 members of the force now before the court on anti-corruption charges, and a further 100 cases before the director of public prosecutions awaiting a ruling.

"You can't have community safety without confidence, and so you have to take action to deal with the corruption cases."

According to Felice, last year, a total of four members of the police force were convicted based on cases brought by the Anti-Corruption Branch, but already this year, eight members of the force have been convicted.

In addition, disciplinary measures have been taken against several members of the force.

These include 41 persons from the rank of constable to sergeant who had their application to serve a further five years refused, and 10 members who lost their jobs after being convicted by the courts of criminal offences.

In addition, 28 members of the force, including two officers, were asked to retire in the public's interest, and 38 members dismissed.

Eight members of the force were reduced in rank after disciplinary hearings, 47 were severely reprimanded, 30 reprimanded, while several others were fined a combination of two hundred and sixty-three days' pay.

"These are significant efforts to cleanse the JCF," Felice said.

He told the Editors' Forum that due process was transparently done before any of the disciplinary action was implemented.

"We would probably cleanse the JCF a lot quicker if we did not stick to the legal processes of Jamaica, but we have to stick to those, and it takes a long time to go through."


  • Cop buys 153 illegal guns


One undercover officer bought 153 illegal guns - many of them loaded - during the past year and was so good at his job that sellers were falling over each other for his business, the police com-missioner said Thursday.

The sting netted 20 suspects, and 17 have been arrested. The operation, dubbed "Phoenix," started last May after police learned of a man selling guns in the 75th Precinct in East New York, Police Com-missioner Raymond Kelly said.

The investigation expanded to 11 other precincts and grew to include a web of suspects who often tried to sell to the undercover cop behind one another's back, Kelly said.

  • US Gang Crackdown

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP):

Nearly 100 suspected gang members have been arrested over the past several months in cities along California's central coast as part of a major crackdown on drugs and violent crime that has terrorised residents, authorities said Thursday.

Attorney General Jerry Brown made the announcement on 'Operation Knockout' in Salinas, an agriculture-driven city in the heart of the nation's Salad Bowl that has been plagued by violence in recent years.

The city of 148,000 suffered 55 homicides in 2008-09.

Tips from former security ministers

  • Trevor MacMillan, 2008-09 : There is only one way this problem is going to be solved ultimately, and it's when the PNP and the JLP decide to forget their partisan feelings and work together for Jamaica's best interest.
  • Dr Peter Phillips, 2001-07: It requires the will to actively implement the international cooperation dimensions that are essential to deal with the transnational crime, which I've always said is the root of our wider problem.
  • K.D. Knight, 1989-2001: It needs a national effort to address crime. I would endorse fully the implementation of the task force recommendations and community consultative committees to see how we could, in a democratic way, get the nation energised and involved.