In his first major interview since being freed of corruption charges just over a fortnight ago, former Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) James Forbes said he felt betrayed by his colleagues who knew of his rock solid integrity.
At the rate he was progressing through the ranks of the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) Forbes was on a trajectory to likely hit the position of top cop when the charge and conviction for perverting the course of justice brought a screeching halt to a stellar career.
“I feel betrayed. They knew me and yet pursued the matter in the manner in which they did. They knew that there was nothing inappropriate that could take place in my presence,” Forbes declared in the interview with the Jamaica Observer, but declined to call names.
Asked why he thought he had been betrayed by colleagues, the ex-policeman, who turns 60 this year, said: “I am not prepared to speculate about the motive of those people in the force. But they trampled on my service and my reputation, and technically put me out of a job.”
Born in the sprawling, violence-prone slums of 1970s west Kingston, Forbes, who never met his mother or father, overcame abject poverty to become a rising star in the police force, making his mark as the articulate chairman of the Police Federation, speaking for rank and file cops.
Jamaica got its first glimpse of the man who would lead the consequential JCF Community Safety and Security Branch when he served as the television presenter for the Crime Stop programme. He headed the branch up to the time of his arrest and charge on August 22, 2012.
Forbes was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice in 2014 after a trial in the then Corporate Area Resident Magistrate's Court, stemming from a meeting he moderated between businessman Bruce Bicknell and two police sergeants at his St Andrew office.
The senior cop was accused of destroying a case file prepared against Bicknell, who was accused of offering a bribe to two policemen to tear up a traffic ticket for speeding in a traffic stop in east Kingston.
But Forbes, who insisted that no such agreement had been reached and that he was unaware, at the time of the meeting, that Bicknell had been formally charged, was found guilty by the magistrate. Bicknell and Portland Western Member of Parliament Daryl Vaz, who was charged jointly with him, were later freed.
Forbes was sentenced to a fine of $800,000 or six months in prison.
He appealed the case in 2018 and on February 26, 2021, at a virtual sitting, the Appeal Court tossed the conviction and ordered that the $800,000 paid by the policeman be returned to him “forthwith”.
In the interview, Forbes spoke with obvious emotion of the afternoon in April 2012 when he received a fateful call from a mentor, former Police Commissioner Lucius Thomas, then a consultant to late Minister of National Security Trevor MacMillan.
Thomas's innocent call about the Bicknell case would unleash turmoil in Forbes' life, bring an abrupt end to his 32-year tenure in the JCF, and set off a chain of distressing events for the father of five.
Follow the Observer for the full interview with SSP James Anthony Forbes