January 1982 I entered the police training school on the back of a police truck, I was excited about becoming a police officer, having decided against going to Mico Teachers college .
My sojourn at Port Royal was one of excitement but also one of disappointment as the group of us around fifty plus was not a full complement which would be enough to make up a graduating class.
So it was weeks before we took the oath of office despite the fact that we were effectively seen as agents of the state and was subject to the dictates of the staff.
Not only was the number of us insufficient we later realized that we would be the last batch of recruits ever to set foot as police trainees at the Port Royal facility.
Police training was to be removed to the former Jamaica School of Agriculture at Twickenham Park and we were to be the ones doing the heavy lifting of removing the school into the new facility which would become the Police Academy.
It was ironic because as a high school student I decided I would attend the Jamaica School of Agriculture after I was given a free trip to the school by my Agriculture teacher mister Bascoe.
I never realized I would receive training at the same facility but for a whole other discipline.
Months later a full complement of recruits arrived and we commenced training. December of 1982 one hundred and five of us passed out as probationary constables. We would hold the distinct honor of being the very first batch to commence training and pass out at the police academy.
After serving the force for roughly 10 years I decided in 1991 it was best if I left as I did not like the direction in which it appeared to be heading. At the time my boss at the CIB office at Constant Spring Noël Asphall, a man I loved and had the utmost respect for told me he was sad to see me go but if he was my age he would have done the very same thing.
I realized there and then that my decision to exit the force at that time was indeed the correct decision, one I have not regretted since.
The present Assistant Commissioner of police in charge of crime Élan Powell served under mister Asphall’s leadership as well as other senior officers of the department SSP Colin Pinnock, ACP Devon Watkiss, and others.
Many other former members of that cadre of officers who made up the Constant Spring CIB office have left as I have, and a couple has not fared as well as they ought to, nevertheless I believe that that group of detectives was arguably the best ever assembled anywhere in Jamaica in the history of the JCF .
We produced results. Not ever officer was perfect, in fact, none of us were, what we learned was to make each piece of the puzzle work as a cohesive unit for the betterment of the office, the results were astounding.
There are many unsung heroes whose names I will never forget , men like Donald McKinnis, Barrington Campbell, Altamont (Parra) Campbell, Jerry Wallace, Tracy, Little wicked Henry, Dadrick Henry, (Ellison deceased) Hanson, Scully, Allan Campbell, Dacres, Marc Foster, Allen Gauntlet ‚Ankle, Artel Morgan, George Henry, Dawes, and others.
We understood the value and the concept of “Esprit the corp”, as police detectives we knew quite well that we depended on each other to be the eyes behind each other. Looking out for the safety of our fellow officers could only be a bad thing if it emanated from the intellectual ghetto.
We were confident that the officer behind us was not a part of any criminal gang, he or she was not aligned to any criminal enterprise which would cause him/her to put a bullet in the back of our individual heads.
As I said we weren’t perfect but we understood the weaknesses and frailties inherent in each other. It came as no surprise that on the night a coward attacked and shot me in my hip on Blackwood Terrace off Red Hills Road a recent transplant the detective corporal who had recently arrived from Spanish Town to join the office ran away out of fear.
None of the core group of officers would have shown such cowardice. Ultimately though shot, I prevailed against the cowardly punk and removed another weapon from the streets in 1988.
I never received a telephone call from the Commissioner of Police Herman Rickets, neither did I receive any communication from the police federation. It did not require much more for me to realize that the police agency was not one in which I wanted to remain.
Despite the several commendations which would come later my mind was made up that the police force would not be a career for me.
Fast forward to the 90’s and the 2000’s between the entrenched Government of the day and the criminal lobbyists the police were incredibly indoctrinated from the academy into believing that “Esprit de corps” was a bad thing.
Young recruits were indoctrinated into believing that their core function was to respect the rights of criminals, not place them in custody where they belong.
At the same time there was zero emphasis in the public space on educating the public about the respect it must have for the rule of law. There was no education that the officers who enforced the law must be respected. Most importantly, there were no new laws enacted which made it a felony punishable with serious prison time for assaulting a police officer.
The reverse was done, as was the case when I served up to the early 90’s, activist judges (you’ve guessed it from the intellectual ghetto, would summarily dismiss assault and resisting arrest charges against even the most hostile criminals. This in and of itself forced officers to be more aggressive in protecting themselves because neither the legislature nor the courts would.
The period of the 1990’s to early 2000 was a period which saw crime escalate to unprecedented levels culminating in over 1600 homicides for the single year of 2005.
This did not happen overnight.
The PNP administration which held power for an unprecedented 141⁄2 years did nothing about crime. Percival James Patterson the Prime minister for most of that period a lawyer by trade, pretty much gave criminals (carte blanch) a blank check, to do whatever they wanted, the narrative which emanated from that period in Jamaican history was “run wid it , anything a anything”.
It was a tacit support and endorsement for people to go out and do whatever they wanted to do while the administration went ahead wrecked the economy and pillaged the nation’s coffers.
It has been common knowledge that the majority of the Jamaican people prefer when the PNP forms the Government because they are allowed to do as they please.
They understand that a PNP Government does not care a rat’s ass about putting criminals in jail, it’s freedom to do whatever they want.
To this day some of the nations most violent criminal gangs are affiliated with the party. Arresting well-connected kingpins in Jamaica whether PNP or JLP can only be undertaken by the United States of America.
Not only did Patterson not do a damn thing about the crime rate he never made a red cent available to train a single detective for almost a whole decade.
The Police hierarchy attested to that fact. That was the period when the very nature of our country changed. The culture changed. The people changed. It was the time during which our country experienced unprecedented levels of homicides and became the number one murder capital of the world.
A dubious distinction which occurred under the PNP’s stewardship.
Is the PNP solely responsible for the nation’s woes?
Absolutely not but that party has controlled power for most of the time since Independence they have a larger share of the blame. It was under their watch that a Pediatric Doctor was able to effectively change the way our nations streets and by-ways are policed. The result, thousands more dead, maimed and mutilated.
No person in their right mind would want a police state in which agents of the state abuse the rights of citizens, or are not held accountable when they break the laws. For the duration of the ten years I served I made a conscious effort to be courteous as much as I could to the people with whom I interacted. It was not always possible to be courteous and kind to all people. Some make it impossible to be kind and courteous to them.
Whenever those occasions arose those were dealt with with the full force of the laws.
Despite safeguards against police abuse, the police must have the power to go after criminals wherever they are whether, in a shack in Majestic Gardens or sitting in Jamaica house, no one is bigger than the law.
At the time they intimated they intended to modernize the JCF I was ecstatic that a modern police force in Jamaica would be a driving economic engine for our country’s development.
I believed that the single largest impediment to the Island’s growth was the burgeoning crime situation, it remains so today despite what appears to be blindness by both political parties. It’s not that the parties are blind to this fact, both have functionaries who are criminals.
What I failed to take into account is that more people with degrees did not mean a modern police force or a better police force.
The very same special treatment for some, nepotism, political advancements and the other non-merit based advancement practices would remain.
Out of that came a younger cadre of officers who did not see a future for themselves in the department, neither did they have the option to leave as some of us had done earlier.
Graft, corruption, and gross-criminal conduct resulted in a badly thought out, badly researched piece of legislation which was intended to corral dirty cops.
The independent commission of Investigations(INDECOM)the darling of the criminal class was born.
At the heart of the Act was the desire to supposedly curb what was characterized as extra-judicial police killings. To its credit, the INDECOM Act resulted in fewer killings by police but not something which law-abiding citizens can celebrate.
Nevertheless, INDECOM and its supporters point to the drop in police killings as a sign that their methods are indeed bearing fruits.The narcissistic overly ambitious commissioner Terrence Williams use those statistics to drive home his point while demanding more power to go after members of the police force.
What they do not bother to mention is that while police killings had dropped, criminals have gone on a killing spree, having a free hand to do as they please without any fear of the police who are scared to do their jobs.
The more educated police brass are not shy about giving interviews from behind their nice desks in their fully air-conditioned offices replete with modern computers. Despite the infusion of modern amenities the crime rate continues to gallop out of control.
Nowadays it is clear the country is in serious trouble much more than the people realize. The police whether through lack of effective training or fear, are unable to effect a simple arrest.
Every arrest becomes a major spectacle with crowds jeering and threatening the arresting officer/s.Most shockingly are the cases where one or two officer/s struggle with a suspect who is violently resisting while one or more officers stand by totally disinterested.
Am I to believe that the khaki-clad officers bound behind their desks do not peruse social-media? Are you telling me they do not see these egregious acts of assault being visited on the younger men of the department? Are they blind to these acts of indiscipline when officers fail to support each other in effecting arrests?
How can they not see the danger to the younger officers who are in most instances surrounded by violent crowds egging on the suspects even as these young officers carry out their lawful duties?
What kind of police force throws it’s own to the wolves and the ravenous dogs which now seem to make up the Jamaican society?
Where is the commissioner of police?
Where is the police federation on this.?
It’s only a matter of time before someone grabs a cop’s gun and seriously wound or kill officers as they do their jobs.
Oh wait, it recently happened in front of the Olympic Gardens Police station, though slightly dis-similar, the very station in which several officers lost their lives to marauding terrorists in the 1980’s.
Every suspect wants to engage in a fight with cops, what are the cops going to do about it? They can be heard saying yu can’t du mi nutten, yu can’t shoot mi”.
They know that the INDECOM Act is a crime enhancement law and they are taking full advantage of it.
The senior Officers from those at 103 Old Hope Road right on down are quite willing to throw them to the wolves for a glass of rum. And the Federation is worse than a neutered mongrel, much bark no bite.
Nevertheless, the police must take some of the blame, every police officer is trained in effectively handling a belligerent suspect.
It’s rather simple …
(1) You are under arrest place your hands behind your back!
(2) Physically grab him/her, to the ground you go,( every officer on scene involved), if enough officers, others make sure that bystanders maintain a safe distance for officer safety.
(3) Quickly cuff and place suspect in the vehicle.
(4) Any person who actively got in the way of, interfered with or counseled the accused to resist must then be subjected to 1 – 2 & 3.
Use force commensurate with resistance. The laws are clear you have the right to do your jobs without being attacked or hurt.
Do your job correctly and if they want it to give them the phone number to INDECOM.
Make the damn arrest with authority they will know you are not playing around.