Commissioner of Police, Owen Ellington, has applauded the position taken by the Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting to hold him accountable for a reduction in the instances of police fatal shootings.
“I am happy that we have a Minister who takes such a bold stand on such an issue which may even be controversial among members of the force,” he said as he addressed the Island Special Constabulary Force (ISCF) Officers' Association 25th Annual General Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston on March 30.
In a statement in Parliament on March 27, Minister Bunting has said he would be holding the Commissioner of Police, and the High Command, accountable for a reduction in the level of police fatal shootings and that Government is to undertake a review of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) policy on the Use of Force.
Mr. Ellington said it was important that the operations of the police going forward, must reflect this new policy intention of the Minister and that it must be ensured that all members exercise due restraint in the use of force to apprehend suspects.
“It cannot continue to be felt by any segment in the society, that we have any desire to kill anyone- that’s not a part of our remit. In fact, our business is to safeguard life, not to take life,” he said.
Mr. Ellington further noted that the use of force is not part of any strategy employed by the police to fight crime and that a separation has to be made between use of force and fighting crime.
“Use of force occurs only in a very narrow set of circumstances, only where use of force is justified and necessary to protect our lives and the lives of others. It can’t be used therefore, indiscriminately, it can’t be used without due care and consideration for those we seek to apprehend and…those who are innocent bystanders or who may be within an arc of range,” he said.
The Commissioner informed that there will be a meeting of the officer corp on Monday (April 2) to discuss “the new direction we’ll take in terms of how our members are allowed to use force, how we account for the use of force and how we respond to what a legitimate concerns and expectations of the citizens we serve”.
“I promise that at the end of that meeting hopefully, we can go back to our public and express and explain the…new approaches that we are going to take so that very shortly, our public should be reassured that they can trust us, that they can continue to believe in us, that they continue to invest their approval and support in us because we are indeed ‘the good guys’, we mean good and we want to continue doing good for our country,” he stated.
In the first three months of this year, 56 persons have been killed by the police. This is the same as for the first quarter of 2011, and significantly less than in the first quarter of 2010.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter