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Get Rid Of CCN! on Mon Aug 02, 2010 12:51 pm

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Last Thursday's fatal shooting of 29-year-old Ian Lloyd by a plainclothes cop in Buckfield, Ocho Rios, and the clash between subsequent amateur video footage and police reports that followed, have punched holes in the credibility of the Constabulary Communication Network (CCN), some civil-society stakeholders argue.

CCN reports indicated that Lloyd had attacked policemen, who shot him in self-defence. Yet the video showed Lloyd on the ground being beaten by a cop and then shot by another.

For Yvonne McCalla Sobers, head of human-rights group Families Against State Terrorism, the incident is enough to prove that criticisms of the legitimacy of CCN state-ments are justified and that the organisation should be dissolved.

"What was shown on the tape bore little relationship to the CCN report on the incident. The difference in the accounts confirms a long-held belief that stories of shoot-outs are fabricated," McCalla Sobers declared in a letter to the editor yesterday.

The People's National Party's Human Rights Commission (PNP HRC) has also joined the legion of voices weighing in on the matter.

"The PNP HRC, after viewing a video of the execution, notes with horror the concoction of lies carried by the Constabulary Communication Network."

An impassioned Clyde Williams, chairman of the commission, threw light on police corruption.

"This sordid affair has again raised the allegations by residents across Jamaica that several police fatal shootings, contrary to what the police say, are, in fact, police executions."

Police cannot police the police

Williams questioned whether or not CCN should even exist.

"We need to have a look again at why we have CCN. Just by virtue of them being policemen makes them biased towards reporting crimes committed by their own."

For Williams, the question of police objectivity cannot be ignored. He insists that proper protocol be followed and that the Bureau of Special Investigations, the arm responsible for probing police killings, liaise with journa-lists on police killings, instead of CCN, which he regards as a mouthpiece of the constabulary.

That sentiment is echoed by lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Psychology and Social Work at the University of the West Indies, Mona, Dr Herbert Gayle.

Gayle said the police have no place reporting on killings by their colleagues. Gayle is insistent that the CCN has its merits but argued that its priorities should be shifted.

"It may make more sense to change expectations. We need to take a look at the playground of the CCN rather than to ask them to dismantle," he said.

The anthropologist argued that many structural changes are required for the organisation to function.

It is a view shared by Milton Samuda, president of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC). Samuda said controversy over the CCN's credibility over the years is enough to warrant a full-scale review.

Samuda suggested that the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) go back to the drawing board, "take a look at the mandate and see if the organisation is fulfilling what it set out to do".

"It must decide if it has gone so far from its mandate that it needs to be disbanded," added the JCC head.

Gayle, however, hopes Jamaica will not throw out the baby with the bathwater. He believes that the work of the CCN in transforming the image of the JCF and the accessibility of information and the sensibility with which it is produced shows that the CCN has not been a sleeping public-sector group.


"We shouldn't make any quick and dirty judgements," he said. "It makes no sense scrapping them to go back to what we used to hear."

CCN head, Inspector Steve Brown, denied requests for comment, directing The Gleaner instead to Karl Angell, communications director in the Office of the Police Commissioner. Calls to Angell's telephone went to voicemail and were not returned.

Earlier in the day, when asked if citizens could still trust reports coming out of the CCN, Police Commissioner Owen Ellington simply answered, "Of course."

Published: Monday | August 2, 2010 [Gleaner]









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