April 3, 2012 | 2:44 pm | Print
Above: Police Commissioner Owen Ellington (FP)
By the Caribbean Journal staff
Jamaican Police Commissioner Owen Ellington said the police would be adopting several new strategies involving the use of force by police during operations.
The police are looking to reduce the number of fatal shootings. Ellington’s announcement comes after Jamaican National Security Minister Bunting said last week that in Parliament that he would hold the police accountable for a reduction in the levels of such incidents.
Ellington himself praised the move, say he applauded Bunting’s “bold stance” on the issue.
In the first three months of this year, 56 persons have been killed by police. That represents a reduction from the first quarter of 2010, and the same total as in the first quarter of 2011.
Ellington held a meeting Monday with senior members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force, Island Special Constabulary Force and five representative groups.
“We all agreed that there has to be a change in the police’s attitude in respect to how we use force and a complete change in our professional conduct in respect of how we deploy deadly force,” Ellington said.
The new approach will be incorporated into the police’s standard operating procedures, as well as included in firearms and tactical training for top rank officers.
“The specialist trainers were in attendance at the meeting … and they assured us they have the capability to quickly incorporate the new procedure,” he said. “We will start delivering [that] training this year.”
The new directive asks police to exercise the same level of care for the safety of criminal suspects and civilians as they would for their own safety.
“There’s a very new and different approach to consider in the use of force because, normally people try to protect themselves first and then look out for others,” Ellington said. “We’re saying, whatever steps you consider appropriate to protect your own life, apply those measures to protect the lives of criminal suspects or innocent bystanders.”
Police will be equipped with non-lethal weapons, such as pepper sprays, as far as is practicable, Ellington said. Some 2,000 pepper sprays were deployed last year.
Ellington said that while the strategy could prove “very tricky” in giving criminals the advantage of shooting officers, “we are promoting it nonetheless, and in doing so, we are encouraging our members that whenever they are under attack, seek cover, make yourself and your position safe and then appeal to the individuals to disarm peacefully.”