FORMER Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington testified yesterday that there was no breakdown in the command and supervision of members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) conducting the May 2010 operation to apprehend Tivoli Gardens don Christopher ‘Dudus’ Coke.
“It is difficult for untrained civilians to assess the quality, stability and strength of command and supervision on the ground,” said Ellington, who was continuing his evidence-in-chief before the Tivoli enquiry being held at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston.
“There was no breakdown. There were constant updates to us and as I said before, we reviewed the operation as we do every other operation,” he added.
Ellington made the statement after being asked by Deborah Martin, one the attorneys representing the JCF at the enquiry, to comment on the opinion of former Prime Minister Bruce Golding, who gave evidence at the enquiry that — based on what was reported to him by residents of Tivoli Gardens at the start of the May 24, 2010 operation — he formed the impression that there were weaknesses in command and lack of supervision on the ground. Golding said further that he got the impression that every man was doing his own “thing”.
But Commission Chairman Sir David Simmons pointed to a review of the operation that found “weaknesses in the capacity and capability in operational tactic on the part of some JCF members”.
“Is there anything in those words which might, for example, lend support to the report that Mr Golding talked about?” Simmons asked.
“No, I don’t think so, Commissioner,” Ellington said, “because this assessment was done post- operation when we had an opportunity to sit down as commanders… and do a complete assessment of how the whole thing unfolded.”
He explained that “feedback from commanders suggest that police officers and sub-officers who came to assist, especially from outside the Mobile Reserve”, lacked endurance.
“They were not behaving like the Mobile Reserve officers and they were not behaving like the military people on the ground, but it does not mean that there was a lack of leadership,” Ellington said.
He said, too, that a number of the police officers who came to assist those conducting the operation had health issues.
He said that more officers were trained and promoted in the wake of the operation, from which he said the constabulary learnt a great deal.
On another note, Ellington testified that it was easy for Coke or anyone to slip out of Tivoli during the intense period of gunfire. He theorised that Coke may have escaped the police dragnet through tunnels leading out of the area.
Meanwhile, the commission was shown pictures of a propane tank rigged with explosives and other pictures that featured dynamite and grenade, which were recovered by the police following the operation.
Ellington is to continue his evidence when the enquiry resumes on April 7.