Regional

Popular St Elizabeth police chief moves on

Monday, July 17, 2017

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Black River , St Elizabeth — Superintendent Lanford Salmon, chief of police in St Elizabeth, had startling news for members of the St Elizabeth Municipal Corporation when he visited their regular monthly meeting last Thursday.

“It is with mixed feelings I say goodbye to the council,” Salmon announced shortly after rising to give his regular report.

“What!?”came the retort from councillors, some of whom had been paying only partial attention.

Salmon, who has been at the helm in St Elizabeth since May 2014, explained that he is being reassigned as part of a reshuffle of senior officers in the Jamaica Constabulary Force.

Starting August 2, Salmon a 52-year-old native of Porus, Manchester, will take charge of the Westmoreland police division.

Salmon's replacement in St Elizabeth is Deputy Superintendent Catherine Lord, who is currently at the National Police College of Jamaica.

Salmon urged the council to give the new leadership the same level of strong support they had accorded him.

“I have worked with both (council administrations) under PNP (People's National Party) and JLP (Jamaica Labour Party), and we had a very good working relationship,” he said.

Salmon, who first worked in St Elizabeth for just a year as a young constable in the mid-80s, returned to the parish as an inspector in 2009. Therafter he had just a two-month assignment outside of the parish, until now.

Last Thursday he spoke of relative satisfaction with the achievements of the St Elizabeth police under his supervision. He noted that murders — often used as a measure of police effectiveness — had mostly trended down under his watch.

Up to last Thursday, there had been eleven murders in St Elizabeth since the start of 2017, four less than the comparative period last year.

In relative terms, “St Elizabeth has done well, very well”, Salmon said, pointing out that over “the last two and a half years 3,328 people were murdered in this country, and of that amount there were only 59 citizens of St Elizabeth”.

He cautioned though, that there should be no complacency and every effort should be made with police and citizens working together to make St Elizabeth much safer than it is now. Salmon praised residents of the parish for their willingness to cooperate with the police for the most part — a tendency which, he claimed, was far stronger than elsewhere in Jamaica. That characteristic, he told councillors, should be nurtured and encouraged. Crucially, he said, trust must be maintained between police and citizens.

Salmon spoke of a recent visit to Canada and his discovery that in Toronto, a city of six million people, there had been only 24 murders between January 1 and May 24. Over the same period, 683 people had been murdered in Jamaica — a nation of 2.7 million.

“We have to find ways and means to stop it [ongoing surge in murders],” he said.

Speaking on behalf of his colleague councillors and support staff, mayor of Black River and council chairman, Derrick Sangster, thanked Salmon for his service to St Elizabeth.

The outgoing police chief had done well “not only in terms of normal police duties, but in terms of your outreach programmes — your town hall meetings and consultations where you have been very, very active in terms of reaching out to the citizens of respective communities, seeking to embrace communities and urging residents to work with you in dealing with crime,” Sangster said.

Councillor Richard Solomon (JLP — New Market Division) joined Sangster in praise of Salmon's work in St Elizabeth. However, he wondered if strategies had been put in place to protect the parish, given that many criminals were expected to flee their previous areas of operation with the coming implementation of the anti-crime Zones of Special Operations strategy.

However, Salmon reminded him that while the police will be on the alert, the right of all Jamaicans to move around freely cannot be restricted without just cause.

The onus, Salmon said, was on people in their communities to pay close attention.

“I say to people that what is important is that you must use up your eye, look and speak,” said Salmon. “It is natural that criminals will try to come to St Elizabeth because it's a nice parish with nice, trusting people, sometimes people here are too nice… St Elizabeth people embrace people easily, but I always say to them, as soon as you see the strange man call somebody (police) so we can check them out. That's the only we can deal with it,” he said.

— Garfield Myers

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