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NCU president formalises four-year tertiary support to daughter of slain cop

BY ALICIA SUTHERLAND
Staff reporter
sutherlanda@jamaicaobserver.com

Sunday, October 28, 2018

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MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Last October the Manchester community was plunged into mourning when much-loved police officer, Corporal Melvin Smith, was gunned down.

Serving close to two decades in the Jamaica Constabulary Force, he had developed a reputation for going beyond the call of duty, and earned the respect of a wide cross section of people.

With a loss so great for the parish, residents could only imagine the immense grief for his family.

Civic bodies and other organisations sought to show their solidarity in tangible ways.

One such organisation was the Seventh-day Adventist-operated Northern Caribbean University (NCU).

President, Dr Lincoln Edwards, at a memorial service at Cecil Charlton Park in the Mandeville town centre a year ago, declared that to honour Smith the institution would offer a four-year scholarship to his daughter when she is ready to embark on tertiary studies.

Last Thursday, at the first anniversary service of Corporal Smith's death, again in the town centre, he made it official by handing over a letter of commitment to the slain man's widow Valerie and daughter Rheana, who is now a second-form student at Hampton School in St Elizabeth.

“Let us take back Jamaica, one young person at a time,” he said.

President of the Manchester Neighbourhood Watch Council, Verna Manning said that the organisation has been assisting to provide support to Rheana in her high school journey through a fund that was created, and to which the National Council has also contributed.

Despite starting her secondary education with the loss of her father with whom she had a close bond, the audience was told that Rheana has been making strides at Hampton, and her success is attributed in part to the “wind [he was] beneath her small wings” in life.

Valerie shared with the audience a poem she penned about her late husband. She said she relives the good memories but each time when she is faced with reality that he is not coming back, it brings a pain so hear-trending it is as if her soul is being shattered into a million pieces.

The neighbourhood watch president said that Smith demonstrated it is possible to be friends with almost anyone, and that was evident when members from the New Green Taxi Association came together to pay tribute, in addition to schools, police youth clubs, and individuals.

One of the taxi operators quipped that people may have wondered about the “link up” between taximen and police at the same event, suggesting that they tend to be at odds, before the group belted out renditions including gospel hit Glory to God from reggae/dancehall artiste Wayne Marshall.

Reports are that on the evening of Smith's death, he was off duty when a young man approached him reporting that the bike he used for meal deliveries was stolen just moments earlier.

The lawman was trying to retrieve it when he was allegedly shot by one of the robbers.

Commander of the Manchester police, Superintendent Wayne Cameron said that their colleague's death was the 40th murder in last year, and it had strengthened the resolve of law enforcement officers in the area.

“At this time we have 23 murders in the parish, 39 last year this time. We are seeing a significant reduction… I make this point because I want you to know that the loss of Corporal Smith will see us working even harder to keep the residents, the visitors of this parish, safe,” he said.

Cameron said that a man was charged with the murder and the matter is now before the Manchester Circuit Court, while a second man was placed on identification parade but was not pointed out by witnesses.

“I can assure you that the investigation surrounding that second man has not ended,” he said.

Chairman of the Jamaica Police Federation, Corporal Arleen McBean asked for public support as the federation continued to lobby to get better wages for rank and file officers, saying that Smith showed dedication yet did not know what it was like to get a “proper salary”.

“We serve everybody in Jamaica but also we are mothers, we are fathers, we are citizens of this country. We are moving forward in a modern force; we want modern remuneration,” she said.

Corporal Melvin Smith was honoured on National Heroes' Day 2014 in the parish, but it was suggested in a tribute that since he has now paid the ultimate price in service, a similar recognition could be repeated posthumously.

The memorial service on Thursday was organised by the Community Safety and Security Branch of the Jamaica Constabulary Force in Manchester, where Smith was assigned, in collaboration with Northern Caribbean University.


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