Police step up efforts to rid the force of corrupt cops

(Jamaica Gleaner) Since the start of this year, 150 members of the force, including recently installed commissioner, Owen Ellington, have faced polygraph tests, but the Police High Command has not said how many have failed these tests.

“The commissioner had to be polygraphed before he got the job as commissioner,” Assistant Commissioner of Police Justin Felice, head of the Anti-Corruption Branch, told a Gleaner Editors’ Forum last week.

The police Anti-Corruption Branch is using several measures, including lie detector (polygraph) tests, as it embarks on a major programme to cleanse the force of rouge cops.

Since the start of this year, 150 members of the force, including recently installed commissioner, Owen Ellington, have faced polygraph tests, but the Police High Command has not said how many have failed the tests.

“There are two types of polygraph tests. There is the vetting, which is like a pre-employment or specialist unit test, and then there is a forensic test, which is used when there is a specific allegation against an individual,” Felice said.

“This is bound to start changing behaviour. People are saying we have to start behaving ourselves because our careers could be over,” added Felice as he revealed that some members of the force refused to do the test.

Felice, a career cop recruited from England, is leading the fight against corruption in the force and believes the message is getting home, with many honest cops now reporting instances of corruption and cases where they are offered bribes.

Long way to go

“I came here to do a job and I didn’t realise how difficult it was going to be when I came off the plane, but I don’t know whether my job is complete yet. I think there is a long way to go,” Felice told the Editors’ Forum.

“I’m getting feedback now from officers and the public that they are seeing signs of change. There is a glimmer of hope,” added Felice.  He said that when the Anti-Corruption Branch was established in 2007, the first year was spent on raising the fear of detection in members of the force while the second year was focused on preventing acts of corruption.

“This year, one of the major tenets is the JCF cleansing programme, which is taking place. And we are looking at officers who are going into dedicated posts, officers going into sensitive posts. People who are going to be promoted are going to be subject to vetting and integrity testing,” Felice said.

He said that there were 61 members of the force now before the court on anti-corruption charges, and a further 100 cases before the director of public prosecutions awaiting a ruling.  “You can’t have community safety without confidence, and so you have to take action to deal with the corruption cases.”

According to Felice, last year, a total of four members of the police force were convicted based on cases brought by the Anti-Corruption Branch, but already this year, eight members of the force have been convicted.

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