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Montego Bay's ACB takes aim at corrupt cops

Published:Sunday | March 25, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Nagra Plunkett and Adrian Frater, Staff Reporters

WESTERN BUREAU:

The establishment of an office of the Anti-Corruption Branch (ACB) in the western city of Montego Bay, St James, has been hailed by stakeholders as a necessary step in boosting police and community relations, which is seen as a critical crime-fighting tool.

"The existence of the office is beneficial in the sense that it will provide stability and comfort to citizens. It allows for preventative measures to be implemented in the detection of corrupt activities and acts, as well as a visible consequence," said Dr Susaye Rattigan, clinical psychologist and regional dean at the International University of the Caribbean's (IUC) Montego Bay Campus.

The office began operations in early March at Leaders Avenue and will have an official opening next month.

The ACB, which is tasked with ridding the Jamaica Constabulary Force of unethical behaviour and helping to restore public trust, arrested 65 police personnel for corruption last year. Interestingly, while 41 of them were charged with an offence, only 25 were convicted.

According to Dr Lee Bailey, chairman of the St James Police Civic Committee, a grouping of private sector interests, the ACB office will help to restore the integrity of the police force.

"Any checks and balances that we have for an organisation and its members can only benefit the public," Bailey explained. "For civil society to support an organisation like the Jamaica Constabulary and for community support, we want to know that we are dealing with people of the highest integrity."

Dogged by corruption

The St James Police Division has been dogged by rampant corruption and recent incidents of unethical behaviour continue to erode its image.

In January, Det Sgt Michael Sirjue fled the island for the United States after the director of public prosecutions (DPP) ruled that charges be levelled against him for fabricating evidence in a murder case.

The latest act of indiscretion adds to a long list of embarrassing situations that have negatively impacted the St James Police Division.

The allegations against Sirjue stem from multiple murder charges against Eldon Calvert, the reputed leader of the infamous Stone Crusher Gang. The case in question was thrown out of the Supreme Court.

The latest situation could be described as a case of déjà vu of the 2008 case of former police Detective Carey Lyn-Sue who, haunted by his conscience after he converted to Christianity, confessed to planting evidence in a murder case against Granville resident Jason James, an alleged gang leader.

Lyn-Sue was subsequently convicted for perverting the course of public justice and sent to prison for six months. The charges that were laid against James were subsequently dismissed.

At least 12 other police personnel, including a corporal and a sergeant, were hauled before the Montego Bay Resident Magistrate's Court on charges including larceny, kidnapping, robbery with aggravation and assault occasioning bodily harm in a time in which public confidence in the police slipped to an all-time low in 2008.

Of the police personnel hauled before the court, one of them was Rahul Khourie, who was sentenced in the Western Regional Gun Court to 15 years in prison for illegal possession of a firearm.

In 2009, the St James Police Division suffered another round of embarrassment on account of two incidents which occurred at the Mount Salem Police Station.

It was first reported that a fake cop, Courtney Grayson, operated undetected from the station for six months, carrying out regular police duties, including going on raids.

Grayson, who was subsequently busted and charged with impersonating a policeman and illegal possession of property to include the badge number of a sergeant who was on suspension, reportedly provided the Police High Command with valuable information about police corruption in St James.

Former commissioner of police, Rear Admiral Hardley Lewin, intimated that information garnered from Grayson may have played a part in the interdiction of 18 police officers at the Mt Salem Police Station, who were accused of being involved in the lotto scam.