Councillors displeased at departure of St Elizabeth police chief
Superintendent of Police Dwight Daley (Photos: Gregory Bennett)

BLACK RIVER, St Elizabeth — Frustration was the dominant sentiment last Thursday as councillors of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation said goodbye to Superintendent Dwight Daley who has headed the St Elizabeth police since January.

Having served for just over six months, Daley is moving on to CIB headquarters in Kingston. He will be replaced in St Elizabeth by Superintendent Kenneth Chin who formerly led the Portland Police Division.

Daley struck a humorous note and drew chuckles at the monthly meeting of the municipal corporation when he framed his transfer order in the context of Ernie Smith's 1970s reggae classic, Duppy Gunman.

Smith's song paints a picture of a man fleeing for his life, leaving his lady behind on hearing an order "Don't move!" from an unseen source.

In his case, said Daley, a voice said "You need to move...!"

Former mayor of Black River and People's National Party (PNP) councillor for the Balaclava Division, Everton Fisher was not amused as he expressed regret at Daley's imminent departure even while applauding what he described as the police chief's "upward mobility".

Former mayor Everton Fisher is questioning the transfer of the St Elizabeth police chief.

Fisher recalled that for years he has questioned the approach of the police high command in transferring divisional heads from St Elizabeth after just a short time in command.

He said he was particularly displeased in the case of Daley whom, he said, was doing a good job. Fisher said he found himself wanting to ask the police commissioner, "Why?"

Said Fisher: "As soon as somebody gets settled and [starts] to lift the bar [for] the standard of policing, there is a transfer — and for the past three years we have had this [happening]. As soon as somebody gets settled in and begins to do some work, a new man comes..."

He praised Daley for "extraordinary" work, especially in the area "in and around" Black River, the St Elizabeth capital.

Christopher Williams wants a return to the death penalty for murderers.

"I have seen where Superintendent Daley has rolled up his sleeve and has been cracking down in the surrounding areas and here he goes... a transfer," lamented Fisher.

He called for "staff orders" relating to transfers to be considered more carefully and suggested that "feedback" from affected communities should be sought.

Fisher said he believed that had there been consultation prior to the decision to transfer Daley, residents of St Elizabeth would have been very displeased.

"It's part of the trend. I wish you well, but I am not so sure how quickly policing will return to the standard you set," Fisher told Daley.

Councillor Dwight Salmon (Black River Division, PNP) agreed with Fisher, arguing that heads of police divisions should be allowed time to implement a "long-term plan" to fight crime. He praised Daley for his integrity, claiming "I know you will stay clear of corruption [in the new posting] because of the kind of person you are." Salmon further argued that perceived corrupt practices was a major reason for people losing "confidence" in the police.

While saying he would not question "whatever takes place in the ranks of the police force", Cetany Holness (Junction Division, Jamaica Labour Party) joined in voicing "my regrets to see Mr Daley go". He hailed the departing police chief for his hard work, positive relationships with the public, and his accessibility. According to Holness, in times past "when you call a superintendent of police you nah get through [but] as you mek one ring, a Mr Daley dat..."

Cetany Holness says Supt Dwight Daley was very accessible

Councillors also asked final questions of the departing police chief about the crime situation in St Elizabeth. Layton Smith (Myersville Division, PNP) was very concerned about a worrying spike in serious crimes, including murders and robberies, in the border communities of south-eastern St Elizabeth — including Myersville, and southern Manchester — in recent weeks and months.

Smith wondered if the recent state of emergency in St Catherine may have led to criminals from those parts making their way to his neck of the woods, since "every day you walk on the street you see a new face... all the bars are closing early now, because of the robberies..."

A grieving Christopher Williams, councillor for the Santa Cruz Division (JLP), spoke of the recent murder of 57-year-old gospel singer Carmen Wellington at her home in Burnt Savannah.

Noting that "murderers are going around without fear", Williams joined calls for a return to the death penalty. "I think capital punishment should be one of those methods of fighting crime right now in this country. It is very needed at this time," opined Williams.

Layton Smith is worried about crime in St Elizabeth/ Manchester border communities.

Daley said Wellington's murder had shocked everyone, including police investigators. He explained that the killing took place while there was an electricity blackout in the area. Reports say Wellington was sitting in her yard with relatives when gunmen drove up and shot her.

Daley appeared to suggest that the murderers may not have had anything personal against Wellington.

"...Yu know these guys, sometimes when dem can't ketch Quaco, dem cyatch im shut [shirt]," Daley said. He gave the assurance that the incident was being thoroughly investigated.

In terms of the Manchester/St Elizabeth border communities, Daley expressed confidence that recent police interventions, including the killing of a gunman who had confronted the police, would make a difference.

Daley said murders in St Elizabeth up to last Thursday had increased by five compared to the similar period last year. He gave no exact figures but official police statistics up to July 6 showed 20 murders in St Elizabeth up from 15 for the similar period in 2021.

He pointed to lottery scamming, robberies "in the Junction space particularly", break-ins, murders and the emergence of the Speculation Gang among the major challenges for the police.

He recalled that early in his command, the police had been confronted by criminals in New Market, in the parish's north-west, leading to the death of one man and the detention of four others — including men who were eventually charged for the murder of a Chinese couple at their retail store in Southfield, southern St Elizabeth, late last year.

Other achievements included the capture of men wanted for murder, robberies, and other crimes in St Elizabeth; the seizure of firearms and illegal drugs; and the arrest of people involved in praedial larceny.

Daley spoke of focused interaction with the public including numerous visits to schools and churches, community walkthroughs, and support in the formation of a neighbourhood watch in Potsdam, Malvern in the Santa Cruz Mountains for which, he said, residents were very grateful.

BY GARFIELD MYERS Editor-at-large, South Central Bureau myersg@jamaicaobserver.com

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