BY MARK CUMMINGS Editor-at-Large, Western Bureau firstname.lastname@example.org
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Since its inception just over three years ago, the St James Police Civic Committee has expended more that $2 million in an effort to enhance the relationship between members of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) and citizens, as well as to address the welfare needs of the lawmen in the parish.
" We started the organisation at a time when the morale of the police was low and the public trust was also low, and at a time when the complaints about the police were coming in from all quarters," explained committee chairman, Dr Lee Bailey.
" While persons said it was an almost impossible task to achieve anything, we went ahead and started the organisation with its main aim to bridge the gap between the police and citizens."
Bailey said the organisation--which consists of members drawn from various private sector companies-- in order to achieve its goals had to first win the police over to indicate that it was not a "watch group for them," but a group that was going to work alongside them to achieve their ultimate objective, which is to: serve, protect and reassure.
He told the Observer West earlier this week that three years later the committee which now has 41 members, is very proud of its achievements.
He noted that the organisation has not only spent a tidy sum in undertaking a raft of programmes aimed at improving the imagine of the JCF, and to improve the relationship between the police and citizens in St James, but its members have sacrificed a lot of time and energy in the process.
"But not only that, we have gained the trust of the police," Bailey emphasised, adding that his committee has also recognised several police officers for outstanding service.
" We are extremely please of the support that we have gotten form the police and citizens and we are doing it because we think that it is our civic duty and that it is necessary if we ever hope to move Jamaica forward," Bailey stressed, adding that "Government will never be able to have enough money to do everything."
Arguably, the committee's biggest project to date, is the renovation and furnishing of the dilapidated Mount Salem Police Station, located roughly a mile from the resort city of Montego Bay, and which lies in close proximity to the Cornwall Regional Hospital.
That station has responsibility to seveal crime prone areas in Mount Salem including Crawford Street, Piggott Street and other sections of St James.
Bailey said sofar, his committee has spent some $750,000 to effect repairs to the leaky roof, flooring and bathrooms, as well as to undertake electrical works at the facility.
The installation of air conditioning units and furniture also formed part of the project.
" Before we renovated the station it was like a fowl's nest. Now the police can carry out their functions in a more comfortable environment and that immediately had a positive effect on the morale of the policemen working there as well as the citizens who have to go there," Bailey explained.
He said the committee has also improved the reception area at the station and plans to undertake further improvement works there.
Members of the civic committee, he said, have been assigned to work closely with the 13 police stations in the parish.
Meanwhile, the St James Police Civic Committee chair said the organisation has also spent large sums to effect repairs to several police service vehicles, and has provide funds for the police to stage Christmas treats and other welfare projects.
The committee has also been instrumental in sending Corporal Karen Austin to Detroit, Michigan last month, as guest of the Brownstown, Grose Ile, Southgate and Lincoln Park Police Divisions.
Austin, a member of the JCF for almost 19 years, grabbed national attention late last year when she provided food and shelter for two young children in St Elizabeth -- where she works -- until they were given a home by Food For the Poor.
During her one week-stay in Detroit, she participated in community policing and routine patrols, address public bodies, government agencies, schools and universities.
Meanwhile, Commanding Officer for the St James Police Division Senior Superintendent Andrew Lewis has commended the St James Police Civic Committee for its efforts in improving the relationship between the citizens and the police, and the working conditions of lawmen in the parish.
" They really help us and we appreciate it," said SSP Lewis.