HISTORY has shown that whenever there is a military group stationed in an area for an extensive period, it is not long before the troops integrate themselves among the locals. 'War brides' and 'war babies' are terms that became very popular after the Second World War, referring to the women who found themselves romantically involved with foreign soldiers, and the children produced by such unions.
The second local zone of special operations (ZOSO) was first declared in Denham Town, St Andrew in October 2017. For the nearly two years since, soldiers and police officers have been permanently stationed at a base at the centre of the community, and various posts along the periphery. On a recent visit to the community All Woman learnt that many women do not want the officers to leave —some for more reasons than just the maintenance of peace.
“We call dem girl deh night cooler,” a young woman, who was seen cooling out at her gate along Milk Lane, explained to All Woman. “They keep them company at night-time underneath the little tent dem. They sleep with them. Even right there underneath the tent, dem do dem thing. Them kind a girl deh nuh want go nuh house, them nuh wah meet nuh family. Dem just waan do dem ting.”
An older woman at the same gate said she knows of babies in the community whose fathers are suspected to be from 'camp', but the practice is nothing new.
“Me always notice that from me younger. Anytime police and soldier camp round here, you have a whole heap a baby weh dem lef round yah, because you have the fool-fool gal dem weh just dash out dem body,” she related, as a third woman nodded in agreement.
Another Milk Lane resident who was seen pushing a trolley with water containers, said the police officers act boorishly with the women who they are not interested in romantically.
“The police more aggressive than the soldier dem,” she related. “When them come to [send people inside their homes], some of them don't have no good approach. They call you all kind of things and run you in like you a likkle pickney. 'Hey gal come go in!'” she exclaimed, lamenting that they sometimes call curfews too early, which puts her family at a disadvantage.
“All from 5:00 pm sometimes them come run you in, anytime them feel like. They mostly will do it on the weekend. As them see Friday come when they know you're trying to conduct a little business, so you can send your pickney go school, that time them come a say 'go in',” she explained.
She said that neither she nor any other woman in her yard has ever been romantically involved with any of the law enforcement officers, because she does not venture 'on their ends'.
“Me mainly stay pon di in-skirts, so me nuh know bout dat. Me a serious girl. But me glad fi dem inna di community same way,” she reasoned.
The women who reside on Wellington Street had similar feelings about the officers.
“Some of them come fi do dem work, and them alright, but some nuh come bout work, them come bout woman,” one woman said, as she took a break from cornrowing another woman's hair.
“Me nuh chat up to them because me grow up inna di system here and me know how dem stay. A only the nowadays gal dem you will see a chat up to police and soldier dem. Me hear about them all the time.”
A male onlooker chimed in about the officers' treatment:
“Them deal with the woman dem likkle better because them can [romance] them off. But the men who they can't do the same with, them [brutalise]. Who them nuh kill off, them lock up and send a Tamarind Farm fi no reason.”
A group of women at the opposite end of Wellington Street were in consensus that the police officers are merciless toward the women who deflect their advances.
“Them not even bother look me 'cause them know me nah take none a dem,” one woman said. “The police dem all kill me dog. Them a wicked. The dog just a bark and me a say 'come puppy' and the dog run after him. One shot to the dog. And me did really love me dog.”
“Them pepper spray three pickney inna my yard weh day yah,” another woman volunteered. “But some good and some bad. Not everybody come treat you the same way. Some will greet you and say 'good night, a time fi go in' but the other one dem just behave bad.”
Historically, the women who became involved with members of the visiting forces were disowned and ostracised by their communities. It is no different in Denham Town.
“A di loose gal dem alone can really take up themselves go deh wid them, after them come deal wid we so,” another woman said. “It's the kinda girl dem weh will get [romanced] fi a box lunch. The police and soldier dem have them woman and pickney dem a go home to. Them no have nothing fi offer none a we.”
Detective inspector of police Pilmar Powell oversees efforts of police intervention in the Denham Town and Arnett Gardens communities under the enhanced security measures. She says that while the force cannot dictate what the officers do when they are off duty, fraternising with the women who they should serve and protect would be a breach of their roles.
“Whatever you do, it must never instruct your job. One of the attributes of a constable is impartiality; you must never take sides,” she said.
“What we do in the space while we operate under the enhanced security measures is people-oriented; therefore, there must be a level of communication between the citizens as well as the police,” she said, noting that the force has partnered with the Trench Town Polytechnic College, and is planning to have officers trained in customer engagement there.
While agreeing that there is room for improvement in the way that members of the security forces communicate with the residents, Powell said that there may also be internal barriers on the part of the women in response to authoritative figures.
“Sometimes they may not know what is happening in the space. So when the police say 'Go inside! It is time to go inside' sometimes it is to save them. Law enforcement will give that authoritative instruction, where some persons might misinterpret as aggression. It is not aggression. It is authoritative instruction,” she said.
She added: “Sometimes, too, when these women, or even the men, don't grow with a father figure to know that tone that says 'Go inside', when the police comes across to say it, it may come across as the person shouting at you.”