St Elizabeth cop defends job of outgoing Supt

BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — A livid member of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) has stepped forward in defence of the former top brass of the St Elizabeth Police Division following Friday’s management shake-up.

It comes just days after eight inmates, including a man charged with a quadruple murder, escaped during a jailbreak here.

Former head of the St Elizabeth police Superintendent Kenneth Chin has been transferred to the police’s Area 5 headquarters in the Corporate Area. Police sources have said that the division’s former administrative officer has been transferred to Westmoreland, while the former operations officer has been transferred to the Kingston East Police Division.

The police on Friday said Deputy Superintendent of Police Coleridge Minto will immediately assume duties as commanding officer for the St Elizabeth division. Police said two JCF members have been interdicted, pending further inquiries.

Chin served as St Elizabeth division commander a few weeks shy of a year after he was transferred there from Portland in July 2022.

The livid member of the JCF, who requested anonymity, claimed that Chin lobbied “countless” times for improvements in the infrastructure of the lock-up cells at the Black River Police Station.

“Mr Chin is presently on leave and he has always been lobbying and writing reports about the condition of the cell and he has always been requesting other police personnel, because the St Elizabeth Police Division is woefully short of police,” the member said last week.

The Sunday Observer was told that the lock-up is in dire need of repair, even as claims surfaced that spoilt locks there weren’t replaced for years.

“The cells have been there for years and the thing about it is that the locks in the cell are specific locks and all of them spoil from 2011. All the prisoners that were in there could have gone enuh, a some of them decide to stay,” the JCF member claimed.

In a press release last week, the constabulary’s Corporate Communications Unit said police were conducting a routine cell check at approximately 6:00 am on Monday when they realised that the eight inmates had escaped.

“They cut the metal bar at the window. It has to be a machine they use to cut that. One cell guard with 60-odd prisoners,” a police source said last Monday.

The eight high-risk detainees, including Anward “Kirkie” Hinds charged with a quadruple murder, escaped, triggering concerns about security measures at the Black River Police Station lock-up.

Hinds was charged in relation to the murders of four farmers — Archibald Brown, 60; his brother George Brown, 57; Maurice Sanderson, 40; and Ezra Wright, 73 — in the remote community of Claremont in St Elizabeth on May 27, 2015.

At that time, police had said he was believed to be the leader of a gang, which was a remnant of the infamous Stone Crusher gang.

In July 2015 he was found hiding in the ceiling of a house in Hatfield, Manchester, and apprehended.

The other detainees who escaped on Monday are Oral Cole, 31, from Comfort Hall, Manchester; Richard Brown, 34, from Middle Quarters, St Elizabeth; Alrick Hutchinson, 38, from Brighton District, St Elizabeth; and Dean Simpson, 34, from Turner Top, St Elizabeth, who were all in custody charged with robbery with aggravation; Jevaughn Simms, 25, from Copperwood, St James; and Kenneth Stewart, 30, from Beacon Hill, St Catherine, were both being held for murder; and Demar Williams, 29, from Gravel Heights in Spanish Town, St Catherine, who is facing a shooting with intent charge.

The angry JCF member questioned the shortage of police personnel in St Elizabeth when there is a police training facility in the Treasure Beach area.

“Although we have the factory [facility] that build [trains] police down at Tranquility Bay. We are not getting any sufficient number of members,” said the cop.

Last December, Superintendent Chin said the St Elizabeth Division had not benefited from the last nine graduation batches at the police academy at that time.

The JCF member credited Chin’s leadership resulting in St Elizabeth’s murder column for May continuing a sharp downward trend since the start of 2023.

“There were no murders committed in the division for the entire month of May,” Chin said on June 8 at the monthly meeting of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation.

The JCF member blasted the high command for its decision in transferring officers who have short tenures in divisions.

“That is always happening as soon as you have a work plan or any set thing then the high command always interrupts and transfers the police. The operations officer is a good ops leader, always doing a good job, so I don’t know why they would want to transfer him,” said the member.

The cop reiterated that the lock-up accommodation is inadequate for the number of inmates.

“Reports every day about the condition of the cell and the lack of personnel to man the cell. The cell was designed to hold a number of persons and they are holding a whole heap more than what it is designed to hold,” said the member.