'Bigga' Ford to leave police force next year

Sunday, May 13, 2012

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ONE of Jamaica's prominent crime fighters is set to leave the Jamaica Constabulary Force in another year to pursue other opportunities in the security field.


Superintendent Cornwall "Bigga" Ford, 54, intends to take early retirement by the time he turns 55, the tough law enforcer told the Jamaica Observer in an interview last week. He has already communicated that intention to his superiors.


"I am doing 35 years in the police force, but I soon cut (leave)," said Ford, who got the nickname 'Bigga' as a result of his size.


"I can't complain. I have done it all. I have had some good times in the police force. If I had my life to live over again, I would do the same thing of joining the police force, but I would do some things better. Out of experience and maturity when you look back at your life you would improve on some things.


"I am going to take early retirement probably in another year. I have given my maximum and I think that it is time I take some rest and look at some options," he said.


Known as a fierce crime fighter who has been driving fear into criminals since he joined the Jamaica Constabulary Force in 1976, Ford declined to go into detail about plans for a future in a field where he has already left an indelible mark, but disclosed that the offers for his services were many and varied.


"I have been getting job offers and I am looking at my options. Look at how you can still make a contribution to Jamaica's security. There are lots of job opportunities out there," he said.


"The police force has made me and I have made my contribution. I have made my mark. The police force as an institution is not a bad thing. It's just that you have some police in it who are wicked and bad-minded. You have people of all different values and standards," he said.


Ford joined the constabulary at a time when it had some prominent crime fighters, who were seen as the perfect response to some of the notorious badmen of the day, including Wayne "Sandokhan" Smith, Anthony "General Starkey" Tingle, Nathaniel "Natty" Morgan, Christopher "Natty Chris" Henry, among others.


His work with crime fighters like Tony Hewitt, Keith "Trinity" Gardner, and Isiah Laing of Reggae show 'Sting' fame, Donald Pusey, and later, Reneto Adams, led to the capture or death of known criminals who wreaked havoc on various communities, mainly in the Corporate area. The crime fighter said although he has arrested many persons, none has been more painful than apprehending a policeman.


"No policeman is above the law. If you commit a crime, one day, one day, things will catch up with you," Ford stated.


When he retires, Ford will close the chapter on that generation of fearless crimefighters who have all left the Force, apart from Gardner, who remains on secondment from the constabulary as head of security at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies.


He once dreamed of becoming commissioner of police, but that evaporated as the years passed by.


"It's not everybody who will reach the top, so we have to understand that. In any organisation that you join you must want to be the top man, but you have to know your limitations," he stated, citing the disadvantage of where he was born as a possible deterrent to being offerred the post.


"Remember I am from the ghetto and I don't think they want any 'ghetto' commissioner.


"I remember when Mr (Francis) Forbes turned commissioner, some high-ranking police officers were calling him 'ghetto commissioner'. He is from Greenwich Town and he was in St Peter Claver Band and grew up in the church like all of us. So that is a disadvantage and a reality," Ford said.


For him, police work is not just about going onto the streets and fighting criminals.


"One of the highlights of work in the police force is when you can go to the High Court and give evidence and the judge tells you that you are a witness of truth," Ford explained.


"I have been involved in a lot of 'big-time' cases in the court, some cases that people give up on. I can talk to people and I know what to do, that's why some of the younger policeman want to be a Bigga Ford, or work in my unit. But once you work in the unit you are exposed to everything — all investigations, road work, intelligence, everything," he said as he provided details of some of the high-profile cases in which he was involved.


"I did a case for the American government and I went to Bermuda to give evidence, and while I was in the court, the high court judge stopped the proceedings and told the court orderly to go and call all the police personnel on the court building for them listen to classic police evidence. Everybody over there saw it as a big thing, but from our Jamaican perspective it wasn't a big thing, because that's how we are trained, to cover all the bases. So we know that we had to make notes in our notebooks, present the notes by asking the judge to give you permission to read your notes from your notebooks and we did that," said Ford.


The head of the Flying Squad, a unit that operates out of the Criminal Investigation Branch, is satisfied with the progress that the unit has made under his command and believes that a solid foundation has been set for future success.


"The commissioner said that I should deal with that division, because we look at street crimes — robberies, stolen motor cars, etc — and why the commissioner said that I should control that, is that once you are out there, the people will give you the information and you can deal with it. If people have confidence in you and believe in you, they are going to talk to you, because police work is like a production line — what you put in is what you get out," he declared.


Will there be a huge impact on the police force when he leaves?


"I understand that I am one of the more prominent members of the police force, but I am toning down to have the space where you don't feel like that.


"I have family commitments and I am looking forward to my grandkids and living some good life. I would like to live even 10 or 15 years after I have left the police force. I don't want to just leave the police force and drop down dead," he said as he dismissed suggestions that he could be a marked man upon retirement.


"No man. Nothing like that. It's how you treat people. If people see that you are fair and just, no matter how wicked they are, a man is going to say 'bway me did a commit crime, but the big man did deal with me how him fi deal with me.'


"I have no fear, I go to any community that I want to go — Tivoli, Jungle (Arnett Gardens), anywhere, and if I am going to socialise or party I go too. I go to dance, opera, anything I feel like I want to go to, any hotel that I want to go. I have no fear of any community or anybody. I am doing my job. If you vex with me because of my work, me and you can deal with that. You still don't take any unnecessary risks. I ride alone too, I am not walking with any bodyguard," Ford stated.


Still, Ford said today's criminals are far more dangerous than 30 years ago.


"They are cold now, more wicked, but not smarter than criminals of the past. A man now will come and tief yuh car and drive it for two weeks without changing the licence plate and the colour. Previously, if a man tief yuh car, him changing the colour, the licence plate, and disguise it so it take you more time to investigate. Nowadays, these boys just take your car and drive it up and down like mad cowboys and they are prepared to defend themselves," Ford explained. However, he is convinced that the police force is able to handle today's criminals.


There are some young policemen in the organisation who will take them on, so they have to understand themselves," Ford advised.




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