Sombre faces and red eyes told the tale. Members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) gathered at the May Pen Police Station in Clarendon yesterday, still trying to come to terms with the passing of divisional commander for the parish, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Dathan Henry. Outside, the JCF flag was flown at half mast, a salute to the 27-year veteran who passed away early Sunday morning. Representatives from the Police Officers' Association, the Island Special Constabulary Force, and other groups came to mourn with their colleagues.
Police chaplain, Assistant Commissioner of Police Gary Welsh was on hand to give comfort to the grieving officers. He admonished those who had come to terms with the tragedy to help those still in shock at the death of the likeable lawman. He especially called for the station pastors and counsellors to meet with their fellow officers and offer solace. But all ears were especially transfixed as Deputy Commissioner of Police Jevene Bent revealed she knew Henry when he was an acting corporal at the Protective Services Division many years ago.
"I can't remember a week passing without us speaking on the phone," she said. "We used to have excellent debates about where the police force was, where we hoped for the police force to go."
She joked that at a recent sports event, she ribbed Henry that his stomach was getting too big.
"And he said, 'No, no, no, I've taken off 30 pounds'. I said, 'You need to take off a hundred'," she quipped, bringing some smiles and laughter to the room. She recalled incidents in which the love and respect Henry's charges had for him came out.
"The feeling I got was here is a commanding officer who the men and women ... could go to him at any time."
She told them to grieve but to remember that Henry was a worker who led from the front and whose record and reputation had no blemishes.
"His integrity was never in question," she said.
She encouraged them to take the excellent lessons he taught them and remember the quality of his leadership. She called him an intelligent crime fighter who had helped clean up the troublesome division.
Bent described Henry as her "little brother" who she watched grow up in the force.
But as the tears threatened to spill over, the JCF veteran steeled herself to remind the personnel that they still had a job to do.
"We are police officers. We are supposed to be resilient. The people out there, even though within their hearts they expect us to grieve, but they also expect us to perform," she said, noting that Henry and his team in Clarendon had done the JCF and Jamaica proud. "When you go out there, his memory should be something that you embrace and that you continue and say 'I am not going to let him down even in death' and so I encourage you... to just be strong and trust God," she said.
Henry's death came just days after the funeral of Inspector C.A. Watkis of the same police station. Bent also revealed how Henry was instrumental in accessing surgery for Watkis.
Believed in others' welfare
"Although he (Henry) was a crime fighter, he was a caring crime fighter who believed in the welfare of his men and women," she said.
Henry also served in the St Andrew North and St Andrew Central divisions as well as the Professional Standards Branch. He was also credited as one of the pioneers of community policing.
SSP Michael Bailey, who was originally seconded from Kingston East division to head the parish for two months as Henry was slated for a strategic management course, was adamant there would be no let up on the criminals. He assured the public and business sector that the police would continue and even try to improve on the gains made in the parish.
"There is no opportunity for rampant crime in Clarendon. We are not going to give the criminal element any holiday... to wreak havoc on the good citizens of Clarendon," he said firmly.
Bent vowed: "Just as we were there for Dathan, we will be here for you."
Bailey promised a doubling of the efforts in the parish which last year saw its lowest murder count since 1994.