Mon | Jul 23, 2018

Jamaica Constabulary Museum showcases police history

Published:Sunday | February 12, 2017 | 12:00 AMPaul H. Willliams
Hats and helmets from yesteryear.
Every graduate of the police training school used to get a black box to store his belongings.
Handcuffs over the years.

The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) celebrates its 150th anniversary this year. It will be marked by a series of events to be announced. This week, Arts and Education was invited to visit the JCF museum at the National Police Academy of Jamaica at Twickenham Park, St Catherine.

This museum showcases some of the equipment and tools that members of the force used over the years a short, but revealing, walk down the memory lane of policing. The exhibits seem to scream, "Remember me!?" The visitors are reminded, and those who were not born when these pieces of equipment were in vogue get a chance to see how the tools and equipment have evolved.

The JCF was established in 1867 as a result of the Morant Bay Uprising in St Thomas in 1865. It was structured like the Royal Irish Constabulary, and training was semi-military. Before the JCF, up to 1671 there was the office of voluntary constables. The constables were answerable to justices and were paid for the first time in 1716 from the parish tax.

An act of 1777 provided for the appointment of petty constables. One of the outcomes of the 1831 Christmas Rebellion in western Jamaica was an attempt to form an organised police force. An act was passed in 1832 to establish such a force, whose members were clothed, armed, and equipped similar to the British Army. In 1833, governors were empowered to recruit officers from the British Empire. The force then was divided into constables, petty constables, and watchmen. These groups became one force in 1856.

Since 1867, the JCF has seen many changes, including the establishment and abolition and merger of various branches and units such as the Island Special Constabulary Force, established in 1950, and merged with the JCF in May 2014.

Some of the notable milestones, events, and appointments are the first vehicles used by the JCF - the Police Car A-1370; the first experiment with a new type of tropical uniform for all ranks below that of sergeant major, which began with Constable Eric Sibblies of the Franklin Town Police Station; and the first three females enlisted - Irish Tulloch, Florence Nelson, and Sylia Myers (January 1949).

Other notables include Basil Robinson, the first native commissioner, appointed in 1973; the first policewoman to be a motorcyclist was Ionie Ramsay (1977); Winnifred Hall-Wray was the first woman to be promoted to the rank of assistant deputy commissioner of police (August 1989); at 45, Francis Forbes became the youngest commissioner of police; Jevene Bent became Jamaica's and the region's first female deputy commissioner of police, and in November 2013, the museum was opened.

It was set up by ACP Gary Welsh. Now located at the Community Safety Division, the museum houses a collection of batons, hats/helmets, cameras/photo processors, notebooks and ID cards, radio/communication devices, handcuffs, old guns, and forensic equipment.

Some of the personal items of the late police chaplain Vivian Panton are also housed there. On the walls of the library itself are the pictures of all the commissioners of police, including the current acting commissioner, Novelette P. Grant.

The museum is open to the members of the public who may be guided by librarian Maxine Hamilton and Sgt Julene Stewart.