Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Editorial | Poor Mr Quallo

Published:Friday | August 11, 2017 | 12:00 AM

We had hoped that George Quallo might have proved an exception to the Peter Principle to become a transformative leader of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). But four months into his stint as commissioner of police, this newspaper is rapidly losing confidence that Christian faith, or even innate decency, is sufficient to propel Mr Quallo beyond himself to an embrace of new concepts for the JCF.

This expectation for a re-engineered Mr Quallo received a major blow this week with his response to the whitewashing findings, by an administrative review committee so-called, that attempted to impeach the conclusions against the police of the Simmons commission of enquiry into the 2010 security operation in west Kingston.

Mr Quallo did not equivocate in his response to this blatant bit of intellectually perverse wagon-circling by the review group, via a loophole that, ironically, was opened by the Simmons commission. "We stand by the report," he said. Period!

The west Kingston operation, it is recalled, was to apprehend and serve an extradition warrant on gang boss and politically aligned don Christopher Coke, whose Tivoli Gardens redoubt was protected by his private army. At least 69 people died in the operation, and the public enquiry into the affair found that there was prima facie evidence to conclude that 20 of these - and, perhaps, many more - were extrajudicial killings by the security force, mostly by the police's Mobile Reserve.

 

FURTHER PROBE

 

The commission recommended further criminal investigation on the case.

The enquiry, in its June 2016 report, cited five then still-serving police officers for their operational and administrative incompetence and dereliction of duty during the exercise. It said the group, some of whom had been promoted since the west Kingston operation, should be relieved of any operational command they held, not allowed to be members of specialised police units, and never again participate in internal security operations.

It was against this backdrop that the commission recommended that the JCF, as well as the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), undertake administrative reviews into the conduct of the named officers as a sign of internal accountability and "a signal to their members that such matters will be treated seriously".

 

CONSTABULARY NOT WRONG

 

Whether the JDF initiated the recommended review has not been disclosed, but the one launched by Mr Quallo's predecessor, Carl Williams, found nothing that the constabulary did wrong during the operation, except for its veiled excoriation of Les Green, a Briton who was head of the Criminal Bureau of Investigations (CIB), for his purported lack of involvement in the post-operation investigations. Mr Green, who is no longer in Jamaica, was among several UK police officers recruited to help reform the JCF, but who had testy relations with their colleagues.

On the five cited officers, the review committee dismissed any claim of dereliction of duty against them, and, with regard to extrajudicial killings, insisted that no bullet fragments taken from the bodies of the Tivoli Gardens victims matched weapons issued to police officers.

The implication is that criminal investigations, insofar as they target members of the JCF, are at an end. So, too, is any internal administrative action against the cited officers.

The problem here is that the JCF, deemed as corrupt, suffers from a serious deficit of trust. With this report and the posture of Mr Quallo, that deficit has deepened, which diminishes the capacity of the JCF to police with consent. Mr Quallo, in the meantime, seems like just another police officer whose first loyalty is to his squad members.