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EDITORIAL - We stand with Terrence Williams

Published:Wednesday | March 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM

MR TERRENCE Williams must stand his ground and resist those in the constabulary, and its auxiliaries, who want to see him go.

Until there are credible reasons for us to do otherwise, Mr Williams has the support of this newspaper. We expect, too, that he will find similar support from Mr Owen Ellington, the reform-minded police chief, whose efforts have, up to now, found favour with us.

More importantly, the Government must reject any pressure to act agaisnt Terrence Williams.

Additionally, Constable Franz Morrison, the chairman of the Police Federation - the union for the rank-and-file members of the constabulary - if he harbours notions of himself as a progressive leader, would welcome aggressive oversight from an agency like INDECOM, which Mr Williams heads. Apparently, we expect a higher quality of leadership than Mr Morrison demands of himself, or which he seems to believe his constituents deserve.

INDECOM (Independent Commission of Investigations), it is recalled, was established by Parliament in 2010 to investigate cases of shootings, as well as other complaints of abuse against citizens by the security forces. It was the outcome of years of accusations of extrajudicial killings and other misbehaviour, particularly by the police, and loss of public confidence in the constabulary's ability to impartially investigate itself.

Unsurprisingly, in its short life, INDECOM has had an uneasy relationship with the constabulary, and some in the judicial process, over its attempt to assert its independence in fulfilling its mandate.

Mr Williams has, for instance, complained of attempts by police officers to muscle his investigators out of crime scenes where there have been police shootings and the death of civilians, and where INDECOM ought to have prime authority. Such actions are apart from the testing in the courts by the Police Federation, the Police Officers' Association and the Special Constables' Association of INDECOM's powers of arrest.

Judicial challenges are one thing. What Mr Morrison's crowd is now attempting is quite another. They are attempting to rile the public and members of parliament into a mood of no confidence in Mr Williams so as to have the governor general rescind his appointment. Or, preferably, he resigns.

The 'offence'

Mr Williams' 'offence' is that he recently appeared at a press conference, hosted by a human-rights group, to express his concern at the spate of police homicides - nearly two dozen in less than a month.

According to the Police Federation's Mr Morrison, such a concern rendered Mr Williams incapable of "impartially investigating any incident involving police officers". So, according to Mr David White, the federation's general secretary, they have written to the prime minister, the governor general and the Parliament to have Mr Williams "removed".

The real aim of the campaign is transparently ludicrous. It has little to do about Mr Williams' attendance at the press conference or the remarks he may have made, and everything to do with a wish to eliminate any body that would hold the constabulary accountable for its behaviour.

If it wasn't these comments, it would be some other, and whoever replaces Mr Williams will face the same challenges until there is a change of the culture of impunity that pervades the police force.

Jamaica's high crime rate and the difficulties faced by the constabulary notwithstanding, 951 police homicides in four years is unacceptable. With that, Mr Morrison should agree.

The opinions on this page, except for the above, do not necessarily reflect the views of The Gleaner. To respond to a Gleaner editorial, email us: editor@gleanerjm.com or fax: 922-6223. Responses should be no longer than 400 words. Not all responses will be published.