Columns

End of an era for 'Cowboy' Knight

BY JASON McKAY

Sunday, January 20, 2019

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April of this year will be the closing of a chapter in the life of Assistant Commissioner of Police Derrick “Cowboy” Knight, with his retirement from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF). It also represents the end of an era in Jamaican policing.

I say this because he is the last of the legendary 'brand name' cops, who have been part of Jamaica's culture for decades.

Names like “Trinity”, “Laing”, “Bigga” Ford, Tony Hewitt and indeed, “Cowboy”, are names I grew up hearing. Quite frankly, they were who I really wanted to be when I was a teenager.

This was the era when cops were the heroes — cops who fought brave battles against dangerous and famous criminals like “Natty Morgan”, “Sandokhan”, “Copper” and “Starkey”, to name a few. This was before Reneto Adams, who came about in my adulthood.

Despite the fact that the culture had been partially destroyed, Adams created his own brand and he also became one of my heroes.

These men fought without bulletproof vests and tactical gear. They wore plain clothes and drove cars without air conditioning. They were tough, respected and supported by all honest, hard-working Jamaicans. This was a time when the public believed in super cops and genuinely felt that the gangs were the enemies of the people.

These cops faced a terrible era, in the 70s. The sub-machine gun culture started and the police only had .303 rifles, .38s, a few Browning 9mm pistols, and shotguns. They persevered and fought the battle anyhow.

Unfortunately, they and the culture of hard core bravado fell victim to the whims of European human rights interests from as far back as the mid-80s. By 2000, having a reputation as a cop who fought gangs in the street was a prescription for a career under siege.

Many of the heroes not named above became scapegoats in cases before the court. These cases eventually came to zero, but were enough to break the momentum of these lawmen and, arguably, the culture was destroyed.

Now? The gunmen are still well known persons and the cops are destroyed if they become famous for fighting them. This drama could not have been scripted by Hollywood's greatest writers, because it is too ridiculous to even imagine.

Who would have thought that a mother country with the history of the transatlantic slave trade on their resume, that has not paid a dollar in repatriation or even properly apologised, could have the audacity to preach human rights to a populace whose ancestors they enslaved?

What is even more ironic is that the populace actually obeyed these orders. If you're wondering what that sound is — it is National Heroes “Busta” (Alexander Bustamante), Norman (Manley) and Bogle (Paul) turning in their graves.

This lead was followed closely by our own home-grown lot of confused, but energised activists, who turned murderers like the Braeton Seven and Tivoli's Baugh into heroes.

If you think I am exaggerating about the damage that was done, then name a brand name cop who has not felt the whip of these hypocrites, or got his career or liberties subjugated.

Lance Webley and the famous Adams have been charged, and that's just two of many I could name. Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Hewitt had his promotion challenged. Isaiah Laing was fired without even a hearing in 1993, less than a year after he was shot by a child killer.

Martin Luther King once said: “In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

That quote brings me to this question: Why have we been silent whilst our heroes and the culture of fighting back have been destroyed?

The majority of us in this country do not support criminality or the idle rich human rights groups that back them. So why are we silent?

We have literally allowed the culture of resistance to be squashed on the say-so of foreign interests and local profiteers, and said nothing. Nuh road nuh block. We don't even write letters or form powerful groups to counter them. It is as if we are afraid that our travel benefits will be revoked if we are identified as a people who stand up.

This was not the spirit that challenged apartheid before the rest of the world, or that stood up to British colonialism. It may be time to reflect whether we have ever truly even thanked the front line police for standing between us and the gunmen, whilst our politicians locked arms with gangs in the 70s.

In fact, this would probably be a good time to apologise for the prosecutions brought against many of them. This apology should include other JCF members who were acquitted of crimes whilst fighting established killers like Baugh, or more recently, Clarendon's Bisson.

I like comparisons, so bear with me. The occupation of France by Nazi Germany brought out various groups in France and created divisions. The invading Nazi army to me is a good comparison to the gangs that dominate us. The French resistance fighters that were brave, and brutalised when caught, are a good comparison to our front line police.

The Government that was created by the invaders and made up of French people was known as the Vichy. This group could be compared to Jamaica's human rights puppets, who have demonised the front line police and the culture of resisting gang domination.

Well, “Cowboy”, let me be the first to thank you for a job well done. I will remember your retirement as the end of an era, during which super cops were treated as super heroes.

Jason McKay is a criminologist. Feedback: jasonamckay@gmail.com


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