I spent 10 years in the Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCf ), I loved what I did, Many argue that the police force was just a job for people who didn’t qualify for any other job, or who couldn’t find anything else to do. I cannot speak to why anyone else joined, but I know I qualified for Mico Teachers College , but was dissuaded by my step-dad, who encouraged me to become a police officer.
I know there are not many choices for jobs in Jamaica, so even if people joined because they couldn’t find other jobs , so what? When the pros and cons are weighed it requires a lot of sacrifice from every person who serves, irrespective of length of service. Low pay, horrendous working conditions, not enough legislative support, not enough political support, not enough material support, the risks involved. On and on, the cons outweigh the pros.
When I joined I hoped to make a difference from within, after 9 years I realized that I couldn’t, after leaving in 1991 I asked myself ” am I able to effect change from without”? The jury will be out on that long after I’m gone, but while I’m alive I have pledged to myself that I will try my best to see how I may help in changing the landscape in my limited capacity. Rosa Parks changed a Nation simply by sitting down.
One way I feel that change can come about, is examining how we conduct business from the inside, and doing a mental audit with a view to doing better with what we have.
Years ago while I was assigned to the Constant Spring CIB Superintendent Brooks was transferred to take over the Division. One morning I was on my way to my car which was parked at the back of the station, when I heard him yelling “cib, cib where is the crime report”? I realized he was talking to me, despite the fact that my name was not “cib”. What really pissed me off was that I had just completed a tour of duty which commenced 8.45 am the previous day, with a break at 1:pm to 6:pm, followed by an all nighter, preparing a voluminous hand-written report of all the crimes in Saint Thomas, Saint Catherine, and St, Andrew North which made up Police Area 5. Did I mention that I was required to prepare 5 copies ?
In addition I had done exactly what was required of me, by having someone place the report on his desk, and was on my way home to shower and go to court. I did not answer, I proceeded to my car and drove away. He didn’t bother to look for the report, he didn’t feel he needed to address me as “officer”, or “corporal”, he saw me as a whole branch of the force. Despite this mis-step Brooks did not change his ways, he doubled down on stupidity by carrying a grudge against me from that day forward.
Sometime later, as part of an Investigation into a stolen Motor-bike, I went to a home in the depressed community of Cassava Piece , to speak to two brothers who were know to us as carrear criminals. With me was constable Francis and detective corporal Wilford Gayle who later went on to become a Senior Superintendent. Gayle was one of the officers with me the night I was shot on Blackwood Terrace.
In addition to the fact that these two brothers were criminals, the mother was also a drug-dealer and facilitator of that criminal enterprise operating from her home. I spoke to the mother, indicating why I was there, she told me her sons were not home, I asked her to relay to her sons that I would like to see them in order to exclude them as suspects in a my investigation. She was pretty civil during the whole conversation, so we left. I went on to other matters, and concluded my tour for that day.
The next morning on my arrival at the office I was told by detective Seargant Jerry Wallace who was Sub-Officer in charge of Crime that Superintendent Brooks wanted to see me. I found it odd, if Brooks wanted to find something out he could have gotten that information from Detective Inspector Noel Asphall the Divisional Detective Inspector(DDI), or Seargant Wallace the (SOIC) sub-officer in charge of crime, what did he want with me? I had no idea so I picked up my note-book expecting that he probably needed briefing on a individual case from the horses mouth. I asked Wallace to accompany me, I never did anything in the force without a witness.
Brook’s was on the phone when we entered his office, judging from the conversation he was on a personal call, (yes that early in the work day). He continued his conversation chatting away merrily as if Seargant Wallace and I were transparent. He did not offer us a seat, he didn’t ask us to wait awhile, nothing, he just ignored us . Personally I never allow myself to be disrespected in that way, and this was not going to be any different, so I turned to walk away, upon which he hastily hung up the phone.
Then he lit into me.
“Weh di blood claat yu gu dung a M.. yaad guy fire up shat fah, a weh di rass-claat du onuh , onuh blod claat nowadays police”? I was stunned , what was he talking about? Who did I fire shots at, neither of the men was at the house when we went there, so what was he talking about?
He continued to berate me, I stood there and allowed him to continue the tirade, when it appeared he was finished, frothing at the mouth, I calmly asked him, “are you done? You are a damn disgrace to the uniform, I respect the rank you hold but you as a person is a dismal disgrace.
I turned to leave then turned back, pulled my weapon, ejected the round in the chamber, placed the round back into the magazine, placed the extra magazine and the weapon on his desk and told him the Force has a Ballistic Branch and walked out with Wallace in tow.
Back in the CIB Office Seargant Wallace placed his hands on his head and declared ‘jesus gad, 21 years inna di police force, an mi neva si one acting corporal dress dung wan superintendent suh.
Gayle chimed in “if a did mi mi woulda tell him bout him blod claat”.
Jerry Wallace retorted “shut up yu blood claat yu fraid a yu fucking shadow”.
I did not know how prophetic those words would be until that night on Blackwood Terrace.
Later that morning Detective Inspector Asphall called me to his office and told me Brooks told him what happened earlier. Inspector Asphall told me Brooks wanted to know about who I was, Inspector Asphall told me laughingly “Becks I told him “if you want to know who this man is look at the red ink in the morning report”, mister Asphall handed me my weapon and the two magazines.
Back then red ink on the crime report indicated crimes which were cleared up.
In fairness to Superintendent Brooks he also asked Inspector Asphall to apologize to me for his behavior. I would have much preferred a personal apology, even as I understood how difficult it must have been for him to acknowledge this error.
For the duration of my stint there, Superintendent Brooks tried to mend fences, particularly when certain well placed persons called and asked him to have me stop by to see them when I’m on enquirers at night.
That woman in Cassava-Piece understood the value of launching a pre-preemptive attack on me in order to have me removed from the case. She knew that her sons were going down and down they went. I recovered the motor-cycle in Drewsland and all involved were given their just due in court, including M..’s sons.
My colleagues who were stationed there at the time knows exactly what family I am referring to. I write of these encounters to encourage senior officers to set the example that they want younger officers to follow. If you hope to change the JCF , you must be the change you desire.