Sat | Jan 16, 2021

Top station award boosts police morale in tough St Catherine North

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2020 | 12:18 AMAndre Williams/Staff Reporter
Sergeant Garfield Wallace of the Above Rocks Police Station in St Catherine North accepts the Top Station Award from Jacqueline Hinkson, chairman of the Police (Civilian Oversight) Authority (PCOA), as National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang looks on. T
Sergeant Garfield Wallace of the Above Rocks Police Station in St Catherine North accepts the Top Station Award from Jacqueline Hinkson, chairman of the Police (Civilian Oversight) Authority (PCOA), as National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang looks on. The occasion was yesterday’s PCOA Area 5 Transforming Our Police Service awards ceremony at the Office of the Commissioner of Police on Old Hope Road in St Andrew.

The Above Rocks Police Station yesterday emerged the top performer in Area Five, shining as a ray of hope in a proud moment for cops in the St Catherine North Police Division, the second bloodiest in the island.

It has been a particularly challenging week for cops in the division, with at least eight murders over a 48-hour period, including a triple killing in Tryall Heights on Sunday.

The division has seen a 35 per cent increase in killings up to November 20, compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

There have been 108 murders – an increase of 28 – and a 21.7 per cent increase in shootings over the period.

Yesterday, Assistant Commissioner of Police Gary Griffiths – the commander for Area Five, which comprises St Catherine North, St Catherine South, St Andrew North, and St Thomas – saluted the cops at the Police (Civilian Oversight) Authority’s (PCOA) Transforming Our Police Services Area Five award ceremony at the Office of the Police Commissioner.

He gave special commendations to those at Above Rocks, which walked away with top honours out of 39 stations, and in St Andrew North, which emerged the best division after being the worst in terms of murders for the first few months of this year.

MORALE BOOSTER

Pointing to a Gleaner headline yesterday, which highlighted the eight homicides in 48 hours in St Catherine North, Griffiths said the win was a “morale-booster”for the division.

“Above Rocks is seated in St Catherine North, so with the negatives that The Gleaner and other media houses have put out over the last couple of days, at least the best station is in St Catherine North,” he quipped to applause across the room.

He said that the ceremony itself would lift spirits across Area Five, especially in light of the surge in crime over the past few days.

National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang thanked the cops for their efforts in tackling crime, noting that they had “just gone through a very bad week”, seemingly referencing the vicious murders in St Catherine North.

“Gangs and guns have been primary tools of individuals involved in killing Jamaicans for over 40 years ... ,” he said. “The anti-gang legislation is less than five years old ... . We have organised criminal gangs murdering Jamaicans, attacking police, undermining our institutions, corrupting our institutions, and, perhaps, they are well resourced, have plenty of money, and working hard to damage our society.”

LEGISLATION UNDER REVIEW

He pointed out that the anti-gang legislation was being reviewed, indicating that the Government was committed to effecting the kind of legislation required to help cops rid the streets of criminals.

“I assure you, you will get those legislation in place because it is critical for me to get the kind of sustainable reduction in criminal activities and provide the police force with the tools required ... . We have just gone through a very bad week, where savagery and fatality of the criminal gangs in Jamaica is [on show],” Chang said during his remarks.

He told The Gleaner that he had no evidence to suggest that the nightly COVID-19 curfew had worsened the crisis of violence during daylight hours.

Other stations saluted by the PCOA yesterday include St Andrew North for Top Police Division, Cedar Valley Police Station in St Thomas named Top Customer Service Station, and Greater Portmore (Hundred Man) Police Station winning the award for Top Prisoners in Custody Station.

Bath, Greater Portmore, and Irish Town were also awarded top stations in the other three divisions.

The PCOA is independent of the Jamaica Constabulary Force and its auxiliary (district constables) and audits the compliance of the force’s standard operating procedures and policies.

andre.williams@gleanerjm.com