Vincent Case paying respects even after death
"Id rather be with the dead than the living. The dead cannot lie, but the living find mischief," said Vincent 'Cowboy' Case, making no bones about why he loved his job as he spoke with Outlook recently.
It is never an easy task burying a colleague, but Case takes exceptional pride in ensuring that the men that served in the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and have given their lives for their country, get the send-off they deserve. The uniform should be placed in the right place; they should look seamless, as though they could just walk straight from the casket to go on duty. Being buried with dignity, pride and respect is the least that can be done for these men, according to Case.
He has worked closely with the JCF for 40 years, however, not always as a member of the force. After working a few years as a security guard at a business place on Altamont Crescent, he was recommended by then Commissioner of Police A. Gordon Langdon, with whom he had worked closely, to be appointed caretaker at the public relations branch. He worked at the location as it transitioned from public relations to community relations, and now community safety and security, always in the area of welfare and farewell.
He recalled that the officers would joke that he fed them then buried them, as he ensured that the officers had at least water while on operations, and looked their best with their casket properly draped with the Jamaican flag at their burial. He knew how hard these men worked, but it was not until 2004 that he became an official member of the team.
The police officers were on an operation and the faithful Case was providing the men with something to eat. An officer asked the inspector what was Case's rank, to which he responded that he was not sure. When he asked Case and he told him that he was not an officer, they did what it took to fix this. He was later sworn in as a district constable.
The work continued and expanded to include official duties. He worked closely with the Ministry of Tourism and had to go with officers to ensure that hotel security was up to standard. He never stopped his welfare job, however. "It is always a tough job and a sad one. It is always tough laying down any officer," he told Outlook.
A particularly difficult experience for Case was the death of Corporal Roland Layne. He was killed not far from Case's home on Mountain View Avenue. "That one hit me real hard. To this day, I do not like to think about it. I cried; and I never cried at my mother's funeral, and I loved my mother very much," Case said.
The deaths of five police officers in Savanna-la-Mar in the 1980s were also difficult for Case. He said it was not a good moment seeing those five flag-draped coffins, but he would not change anything about his job. He enjoys the part he plays for the police force.
"When I put on those gloves at the stoplight and directing the traffic, there is nothing like that. In fact, that is how I got the name 'Cowboy'," he said with a smile. It is the ease with which he directs vehicles that makes him fun to watch.
In photo: Vincent Case at the funeral for a slain police officer.-Norman Grindley
Through the police force, Case also gives back to not only his community, but also schools. He helps to put on events to raise money for some institutions.
Born and raised in what he has dubbed the best parish in Jamaica - St Elizabeth - he was one of eight children. He has six brothers and one sister. His childhood in Caroline district was memorable. His parents could not afford much, but their work ethic and values were admirable. His fondest memories were of Christmas. Coming together and doing things together made for a solid family unit. He was later adopted, but was able to maintain a close relationship with his family. Case believes that family is important and that is why he makes sure to find time for family.
In photo: Vincent Case (centre) cutting his birthday cake with his children (from left) Garfield, Donnett, Vincent, Alton. In the front right are Jameer and Geovonnie. -Rudolph Brown.
Case said his family loves seeing him at work. "I respect the smallest of children and the biggest of adult. You have to give respect to earn respect," he told Outlook.
He said that he thinks the nation should go back to prayer. "Where Jamaica is going, it isn't the politicians or the police that is going to help us. It is God," he said. Case said he would like to see every policeman receiving an official funeral, provided they lived a lawful life.
"We can never pay an officer for what he has done for his country. So, whether he dies in the line of duty or not, I would like to see that happen. It is the least we can do."