JFJ Open Letter to the Commissioner of Police

In light of JFJ’s response to the recent spate of police killings of March 1, 2 5 & 6, 2012 the Commissioner of Police, the Federation Chairman and the Police Officers Association have stigmatized JFJ as “an organization that has been adversarial to the Police” and one that has “accused police without evidence”.  Enclosed is JFJ’s response to these comments.


March 12, 2012

Mr. Owen Ellington

Commissioner of Police

Office of the Commissioner

Old Hope Road,

Kingston 6.

Dear Sir,

Jamaicans For Justice is using this medium of an open letter to request a meeting with you to discuss matters of mutual interest which have come into the public sphere in the last few days.

As you are certainly aware, Jamaicans For Justice has been meeting regularly with members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force High Command since 1999 when we had our first meeting with Commissioner Francis Forbes.  Since that time we have met with every incoming Commissioner of Police, including yourself, and had other meetings with various Commissioners on matters of mutual interest and in an effort to foster mutual understanding.  We have had frank discussions about issues and responded, on numerous occasions, to requests from members of the High Command and from members of the Police Academy and Police Training School and Divisional and Area Commanders for seminars, training workshops and simple meetings to discuss issues of mutual interest and resolve any conflicts.

As you may be aware, we have also been meeting with members of the Federation Executive on and off since 2001.  The majority of these meetings and discussions have been driven by a mutual desire for greater understanding.  Our interactions over the years have resulted in joint advocacy with the Federation for an end to Preliminary Enquiries and for improved human resource management in the Force.  We take some credit for the recognition at policy level of the need for improved human resource management capability in the JCF, a recognition now at last bearing fruit with the professionalization of that department of the Force.

This training is based on a manual jointly developed by the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights and the JCF Training School under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Heath, and is forms part of the curriculum of the Training School.  It incorporates and reinforces the principles and tenets of the JCF’s own ‘Use of Force and Firearms Policy’ now known as ‘Human Rights and Use of Force Book’.  Thirty hours of lectures are delivered to every batch of recruits by volunteer teachers from Jamaicans For Justice, the Independent Jamaica Council for Human Rights and Amnesty International (Ja) Chapter.

All the funding for the more than 170 hours of instruction delivered annually over the last three years to all the batches of recruits (including those training in Tranquility Bay, St. Elizabeth) is provided by Jamaicans For Justice.   Because of the efforts of the joint organizations more than 600 recruits who graduated between June 2010 and June 2011 received special training free of cost to the police.  We have been greatly encouraged by the commitment of the staff of the training branch to ensuring the recruits are properly trained in human rights standards of policing and further heartened by the quality of the recruits and the standards that they attain during the training.  The external evaluations of the training have been positive from both JCF and NGO partners.

In addition to training recruits, JFJ and its partners have for many years provided in-service workshops and discussions with police personnel ranging from Probationary Constables in St. Thomas through to Area 4 in-service Police Officers and members of joint Military Police Task Forces, all at no cost to the police.  Further, our legal department has been contacted by, and has written letters to other Commissioners on behalf of, police officers who complained of mistreatment by their colleagues, superiors and/or the High Command.

We have discussed with you and other members of the JCF, in formal and informal meetings over many years, our recognition of the difficult job performed by the constabulary and our policy of singling out for special mention, by way of Press Release, all those members of the JCF who are killed in the line of duty.  We adopted this policy in recognition of the special role police officers play in the upholding of the rule of law and the delivery of justice in Jamaica.  It is a practice we have thankfully not had to resort to over the last 16 months as no officers have been killed in the line of duty during that time.  We have included in several press releases this recognition of the difficult circumstances that members of the JCF face but, regrettably, this has not always been carried by the media.

Indeed, you may recall that we brought to your attention our concern that some police officers were not being represented in the Coroners’ courts and you indicated that if they inform the High Command, legal representation would be provided.  We have also encouraged Coroners to remind/inform police officers of their right to be represented by Counsel.  We have always made it abundantly clear our high regard for law-abiding police officers, many of whom have expressed support for the work that we do and often express their disgust with the actions of some of their colleagues.

Since 2009 we have sat on the Implementation Oversight Committee for the JCF Strategic Review and through that devoted many hours to interacting with Police representatives and members of the Committee in an effort to ensure that the reform of the JCF, as agreed by the Government of Jamaica, proceeds smoothly and with the proper ‘ownership’ by the police.  We have also, over the years, hosted four public forums on Policing and Policing Reform, the last one being in 2010, at which JCF representatives have been provided with the opportunity to present the Police’s point of view on issues.

It is against this background that we are astonished to hear ourselves stigmatized by yourself, the Federation Chairman and the Police Officers Association as “an organization that has been adversarial to the Police” and “accused police without evidence”.  We were particularly disturbed to hear you say that JFJ “celebrated the wrongful arrest of Malica Reid” having regard to:-

(i) your being aware that the issue of whether the initial arrest of Reid by INDECOM was wrongful is still to be determined by the courts;

(ii) the fact that the Director of Public Prosecutions ruled that there was enough evidence to arrest Reid and had charges brought against him for the murder of Mickey Hill.

Sincerely,

Susan Goffe (Mrs.)

Chairperson