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'The best we've had in terms of strategic thinking'

‘Cowboy’ Knight defends Ellington

BY HG HELPS Editor-at-Large helpsh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, October 17, 2012    

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NO-NONSENSE crime fighter, Derrick "Cowboy" Knight wants the recent pressure being placed on his superior officer, Commissioner of Police Owen Ellington, by some members of the society to cease.

Ellington has come under fire from organisations, including the ruling People's National Party's Youth Organisation, and some individuals over a rise in certain criminal activities in recent weeks. But Knight said that when the top cop's record is examined, it would show that he has done well.

"Mr Ellington is the best commissioner of police that we have ever had, in terms of strategic thinking," Knight, a senior superintendent of police, told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.

"He is always looking at ways to improve the organisation, identifying the right persons to place at the right locations, and interfacing and communicating with the public," Knight added.

"If persons like myself, who are in command positions follow the leadership of Mr Ellington, trust me, we would significantly reduce crime.

"Crime is something that you have to follow day by day, minute by minute, you almost have to micromanage crime, constantly communicating with the leaders around you at the divisional level and asking the citizens to buy into what you are doing.

"It would be an extremely bad move right now for Mr Ellington to be removed. We have significantly reduced murders, compared to last year. When we started in January we had some heinous crimes, and later on we had crimes like the killing of the two boys in Trelawny and the rape of the women in St James. Those tend to impact on persons and they will ride on those.

"In general, I think the fear level is down. We are impacting on the murders and I think we will see a significant reduction at the end of the year in

almost all major crimes," Knight continued.

The Jamaican citizen, Knight said, must cooperate with the police more if crime is to be significantly reduced.

"We just want the citizens to come on board, continue to give us information, don't wash the bloody clothes, don't eat from the money that the men go to rob and take back.

"We know that the country is going through some challenges, mainly financial issues, but clearly the force needs some resources — we need more vehicles, we need some legislation, like the passage of the Evidence Act and the DNA Act.

"Like America, we need every citizen to have a social security number, where every person is identified. Look at a man who hit down this young girl in Half-Way-Tree square over two weeks now and we can't find him. When you go to a squatter community and everybody is using the same address, and everybody knows persons by their aliases, it is a challenge to find them. We need to link the sectors, so if you go into a bank and do a transaction, or if you go into the collector of taxes and do a transaction, once you are involved in any activity and the police cite you as a person of interest, or wanted, then a red flag should come up.

"We don't need to have a fragmented society where this ministry is only concerned about what happens there, or this organisation is only concerned about what happens there," Knight said.

Matters like the abuse of government vehicles by members of the police force and waste in the constabulary is also a concern of Knight.

The police have been taken to task for not caring vehicles under their control, putting more pressure on the

State's resources.

"I think the criticisms of the abuse of police vehicles are justified in some ways, but I think that there has been significant improvement under Mr Ellington, because persons are now able to account," said Knight, who has administrative responsibility for the St Andrew Central police division.

"When a man goes out there and is involved in an accident, he is taken off driving duty immediately until the investigation ends, whether that lasts a year, two years or three years. Nobody wants to go down there, so the accidents are significantly being reduced.

"In terms of conservationing measures, commanding officers are asked to ensure that these are done. So you turn off the lights when you are not using them, turn off the air condition when it is not being used, general conversation of energy, tracking of vehicles so that they don't leave their zones and burn excess fuel, persons are not washing private vehicles on police compound, all of these are some of the measures that all of us as commanding officers need to manage and monitor daily, to impact on resources.

"In a large organisation like this, you are going to have challenges, but we just have to manage them," Knight stated.

A former detective at the Flying Squad division of the Criminal Investigation Branch, Knight also bemoaned the lack of energy on the part of some sleuths who he believes do not go deep enough in preparing themselves to achieve better results.

"Persons don't give us information unless there is trust. They don't know many of us on the ground. Persons will have to know a Derrick Knight, who they have worked with over the years. Persons trusted over the years, like the late Senior Superintendent Tony Hewitt, could go into any community and get information many years after he retired.

"The same goes for SSP (Calvin) Benjamin, who persons are still calling with information.

"I am trying to inculcate in the young detectives that you can't have a man who is wanted for a series of robberies, a series of rapes or shootings and he comes into the lock-up and gets bail or is released for lack of evidence and then you ask, 'Boss, me never see him, or him did dey ya boss?

"In my days as a detective, once a man is taken into custody, I am going to the lock-up to take a good look at him. As a matter of fact, a detective must spend most of his time at the lock-up, because it's like a university over there.

"It is important that we get back to basics. Technology is good, but there are some basic things that detectives must do, like walking the street and meeting people, interfacing with the common man, because technology cannot be everywhere in Jamaica, we don't have the money for that.

"It's not like London where you have cameras all over the place," stated Knight, who admitted that his life had been saved several times because persons call him and tell him not to drive certain routes.

"I have also had a series of death threats over the years. Men call me and tell me they going to murder me, but you have to be street smart to survive," said Knight, who has been a member of the constabulary since 1978, fresh out of Highgate Continuation High School in St Mary.

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