Senior Superintendent of Police James Forbes ended 41 years with the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) yesterday — five days after celebrating his 60th birthday — putting behind him “a bitter period of anguish for me and my family”.
Forbes opted to retire than remain with the force, after the Police Service Commission ordered him reinstated on July 28, 2021, undoing nine years of absence due to a corruption conviction while he headed the JCF's Community Safety and Security Branch.
The popular policeman was found guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice in 2014, stemming from a meeting he moderated between businessman Bruce Bicknell and two police sergeants at his St Andrew office in 2012.
The senior cop was implicated in the alleged destruction of a case file prepared against Bicknell, who had earlier been accused of offering a bribe to two policemen to tear up a speeding ticket issued during a traffic stop in east Kingston.
But Forbes 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. He was found guilty by the magistrate, while 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.
The Police Service Commission followed up six months later with an order that he be reinstated to his old job.
At the rate he was progressing through the ranks of the 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.
“It has been a gruelling journey and a lot of anguish for me and my family. But the quashing of my conviction and now the reinstatement are a manifestation of the justice system which I believe in and served uninterrupted for 32 years,” the jubilant Forbes, a father of five, told the Jamaica Observer at the time. “I am glad it's over. Now is a time of celebration. I have my hard-earned reputation back and I am looking forward rather than backward.”
Yesterday he made good on his promise to retire, following 14 days of departmental leave, and then vacation leave.
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 Jamaica Police Federation, speaking for rank and file cops.
“I will now concentrate on my position as chief of corporate security of Sandals Resorts International and Appliance Traders Limited,” he said, referring to the job which kept him going during his absence from the force.