Westmoreland cops win TOPS awards in police service ceremony

THE WESTMORELAND police division shone proudly on Wednesday, when it copped three major prizes during the fifth staging of the Police Civilian Oversight Authority’s [PCOA] Transforming Our Police Service [TOPS] awards programme, targetting 35 police stations from western Jamaica’s Area One police division.

During the event, which was held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in Rose Hall, St James, Bluefields Police Station, based in Bluefields, Westmoreland, was named the Top Police Station in Area One, as well as given a cheque for $200,000.

The Westmoreland division also claimed the prizes for Top Customer Service and Top Division in Area One.

Sergeant Monique Leslie-Hamilton, the sub-officer in charge of the Bluefields Police Station, expressed pride that both her station and the overall Westmoreland division were able to represent the finest of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s [JCF] Area One police division.

“This is a really memorable experience for me and my team, and I am just really happy about this award that we have received. It is not that we did not expect it, because based on what is required of us, we have continuously put in the work, and during the period they came and did the inspections, we were on par with what they required of us,” Leslie-Hamilton told The Gleaner.

“I am thankful, amid the circumstances within the division, that we the officers are putting in the work. I am thankful to our divisional commander [Wayne Josephs, Senior Superintendent of Police for Westmoreland] and his designates who are really championing the cause to get what is required of us done,” Leslie-Hamilton added.

The Westmoreland division’s honouring during Wednesday’s function comes at a time when the parish has been grappling with escalating criminal activity, including robberies and murders.

According to the Jamaica Constabulary Force [JCF], up to October 28 this year Westmoreland recorded 98 murders, the second highest in Area One behind the 161 murders recorded in St James.

In addition to the Westmoreland police division’s accolades, the Cambridge, Ulster Spring, and Green Island police stations were awarded as the top police stations for St James, Trelawny, and Hanover, respectively.

The Freeport Police Station in St James also copped the award for Top Prisoners in Custody.

Additionally, the Dr Marshall Hall Award was presented to the Black River Police Station in the Area Three police division for improvement in the TOPS reinspection, following last year’s focus of the programme on the police stations in Area Three.

In the meantime, the PCOA’s chief executive officer Otarah Byfield Nugent noted that the TOPS programme, which was started by the PCOA in 2019, is geared towards countering the narrative of bad-policing examples while highlighting positive instances of police/citizen relations in Jamaica.

“I have had so many positive experiences interacting with police, and negative ones too, but we do not show the positive ones enough. Our children need to see the alternatives and possibilities. But, how many Jamaicans are able to see that vision, or have the opportunity to see images of positive police/citizen relations or good policing if most of what we see and ‘blast’ are negative ones?” commented Byfield Nugent.

“Our plan and vision for TOPS is to reinforce and highlight positive experiences, celebrate good work, create a context for achievement, and create a platform where our young people are able to articulate and demonstrate a Vision 2030 of good, positive police-citizen relations for our future,” Byfield Nugent added. “The TOPS programme is aimed at fostering greater compliance with JCF policies and procedures, so it is all about developing a culture of adherence to rules and standards.

“We also have as an objective improving the policing processes, because when you start adhering to rules and procedures, what happens is that there is a predictability in what is expected when you start to engage the police or when you go to a station.”

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