Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of Area one, Devon Watkis and his team are working to put a significant dent in criminal activities within the division through the dismantling of gangs and organised crimes.
The cop, who was been in the job for two years, is confident of success, stating that no challenge will distract the police from the task at hand.
The Area one division comprises the parishes of St. James, Trelawny, Hanover and Westmoreland. The police havemade significant inroads in dismantling gangs in the parishes over the last two years, with a number of persons arrested and convicted before the courts. Just weeks ago, one member of a particular gang was convicted in the Western Gun Court and sentenced to 15 years in prison. In addition, about 12 members of the ‘Bobo Gang’ operating in Westmoreland are now in custody awaiting trial.
“We have set out to target these individuals and to arrest them with evidence, because we think…that if we can sufficiently investigate and gather the evidence to convict these persons, it is the best message to send to the youth that gang activity is not something that you should aspire to be a part of,” ACP Watkis states.
He says that criminals, with their lifestyle of crime now under threat, “have issued threats (to the police), however, we are not afraid of those threats … and treat them as feedback that our strategies are impacting on the criminal underworld.”
While recent statistics show that overall crime is down in the division, ACP Watkis expresses concern about recent murders in Hanover and Westmoreland, but assures that “we are doing everything to be on top of the situation”.
“We have designed strategies and we are looking at all the approaches, and we continue to review the strategies to ensure that we can combat this situation posthaste,” he tells JIS News.
He informs that “all leaders of Area one combined and put forward all our investigative knowledge to bear” to solve the murder of the two security guards in Westmoreland, with the Commissioner of Police and the Deputy Commissioner also offering their expertise. He informs that some of the critical persons involved are now in custody and a number of firearms recovered.
St. James, he says, remains the most challenging of all the parishes in terms of crime, however, the police “have demonstrated that they have the mettle to work and work well."
With Jamaicans and visitors expected to converge in western parishes this summer to stage shows and other festivities, ACP Watkis said the police in the division remains on high alert.
“We in policing are all conscious of this, so we are planning for SumFest, we are planning for the Dream Weekend, and we are planning for the influx of persons that will be converging in the west. We will be maintaining our high visibility strategy and our targeted operational goals to deal with these and other challenges. So in the west, we have a good team (that can deal with) whatever issues that may arise,” ACP Watkis assures.
The top cop in western Jamaica has had a long and proud history in police force, which he joined in 1981, quickly rising through the ranks to become Senior Superintendent of Police. The St. Thomas native, who has served in various divisions, has a reputation for meeting challenging targets and is recognised for making seemingly difficult situations work.
He has participated in special assignments at the Commissioner’s office, was assigned to the Narcotics Division, and served at the Criminal Investigation Branch. He also headed the Organized Crime Investigation Division.
“I had the opportunity to work in the Anti-money Laundering and Anti-terrorism sections of the police force and was an evaluator for the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force, where we go to countries and evaluate their systems. I also gained much experience when I served as an evaluator for and on behalf of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in the implementation of special programmes,” ACP Watkis tells JIS News.
ACP Watkis has been exposed to training in several countries including England and Canada. He is a credited member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) and has the distinction of being one of the representatives of the United Nations (UN) on behalf of the United States and Jamaica, dealing specifically with small arms.
He says the exposure to professional training, including in the areas of conflict and dispute resolution “have equipped me to be involved in policing in the modern sense”.
“I have therefore been able to bring all of those exposures and experiences to bear in my deliveries and presentations at the Regional Drug Enforcement Centre for many years and also at the Jamaica Police Academy as well as the Jamaica Institute of Management (JIM),” he informs.
The top cop, who possess Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees and a Diploma in Marketing, is also an author, having written a book on the ‘Centenary of the Discovery Bay Police Station’ while serving in that area for a number of years. He has expressed the desire to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Law “in the not-too-distant future”.
ACP Watkis, who grew up under the discipline of his father, who was a policeman and his mother, who was a devoted Adventist Christian, says it was another policeman, who motivated him to join the force.
“My father was a policeman, a detective… and whilst I always admired him, my real motivation to become a member of the police force came during career day at my school (Seaforth Secondary). Suddenly, there came this senior policeman, Sergeant Wedderburn. He was so impressively dressed, his pants were well seamed and his boots were shining and his uniform shirt properly tucked and ….I said to myself ‘Yes!’ This gentleman is the policeman that I would want to be like,” he relates to JIS News.
ACP Watkis speaks glowingly of the police force and feels satisfied that he made the right decision to serve his country through this medium. He is therefore encouraging young people to join the force as a means of contributing to the country’s development over the next 50 years.
“We want persons, who want to be part of something new and to be part of the change process. Don’t hesitate, join the force and serve your country”, Mr. Watkis urged.
By Glenis A. Rose, JIS Reporter