Lucius Thomas: The police chief who cared greatly for the rank and file

Lucius Thomas, the contemplative veteran who rose through the ranks to become Jamaica’s 25th police commissioner, never lost his appreciation for rank-and-file colleagues which earned him lasting respect.

Thomas died on Wednesday at age 73. No cause of death was given at press time.

The St Ann-born Thomas joined the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) in 1969. He served two years and nine months as commissioner, resigning in October 2007.

Current Police Commissioner Major General Antony Anderson, who was in the Jamaica Defence Force when Thomas headed the police force, said Thomas “made a sterling contribution” to Jamaica as commissioner between 2005 and 2007 and before that, particularly during his service at the JCF’s Special Branch.

“He will be remembered fondly by the members who served with him,” Anderson said.

“I had the opportunity to travel and work with him on the JCF radio communication project and found him to be quite the gentleman. He was a person who genuinely cared about improving the quality of life of the members and the safety and security of the Jamaican people.

“As an organisation we mourn his passing and now begin the process of paying due respect to a man who gave so much to his country,” added Anderson, who extended condolence from the JCF to Thomas’s family.

Retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Leon Rose knew Thomas for more than 40 years. They worked together at Special Branch in Trelawny and Montego Bay during the 1980s.

“He had unique inter-personal skills; he was able to interact with anybody. It was one of his greatest assets,” Rose, who joined the JCF in 1974, told the Jamaica Observer. “He was able to bring a sense of satisfaction and reward to those persons in the force you could call the foot soldiers.”

One of those foot soldiers was Isaiah Laing, a rugged crime fighter who joined the JCF in 1976. He first came in contact with Thomas in the early 1980s when he (Laing) was a detective sergeant in the West Kingston Police Division.

“They would have to get information from our division so they would send senior officers to us, and they would get everything from the horse’s mouth,” recalled Laing, who left the JCF in 1996.

He said Thomas’ calm demeanour was always reassuring.

“Everybody to him was ‘Mister P’; he was a people person, very down-to-earth, who never reprimanded you. For me, Lucius Thomas is one of the top three police commissioners — Roy Thompson, Lucius Thomas, and Owen Ellington,” Laing stated.

Michael James joined the JCF in 1977. As head of the police federation in the early 1990s, he had several meetings with Thomas who was then a superintendent with Special Branch.

Like Rose, he was impressed by Thomas’ knack for diplomacy.

“When he was commissioner, the rank-and-file members went to his office in droves in the mornings because he had an open-door policy. Before that, you had to make an appointment to see the commissioner. With Lucius Thomas it was easy to have an audience,” said James, who retired as a senior superintendent in 2015.

Rose and James were not surprised when Thomas resigned as commissioner with almost two years remaining on his contract. James pointed to the politics of “city hall” for him stepping down.

At the time, rumours made the rounds that a recent change in Government from the People’s National Party to the Jamaica Labour Party was responsible for his abrupt resignation.

But Thomas, who replaced the beleaguered Francis Forbes, at the time gave a stern rebuttal.

“I dismiss that 150 per cent. There is no rift between us (then National Security Minister Derrick Smith). We have an excellent working relationship,” he told reporters.

In April 2010, Thomas was selected by the PNP to contest the St Ann North Western seat. However, five months before the December 2011 General Election he stepped away from representational politics due to concerns over his health.

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