Officers from the Westmoreland Police Division (in blue, left), umpires (in yellow, center) and parish taxi drivers (in red) kneel to observe a minute’s silence in tribute to the Constable Richard Bacchas Barrett who was killed last Friday. (Photo: Daina Davy)
SAVANNA-LA-MAR, Westmoreland – Police in this parish are hoping a lively football game played on Easter Sunday will help them build a better relationship with taxi drivers in the area.
Westmoreland Police Division football team captain Constable Chenoy “Beep Beep” Whyte said the idea was to engage with taxi drivers outside of the usual enforcement measures of the law. The football game was his idea.
“The relationship between taxi drivers, or motorists in general, and the police is not always the best. I see playing a game against taxi operators as a way to bond and build a good relationship,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
“I think you can earn more respect as police officers [by] being more interactive with people just to show we’re not better than you, we’re only tough on enforcing the law. Apart from that, we are human beings and we can have camaraderie or good relationships outside of our duties,” he continued.
Although this was their first game against taxi operators, Whyte said the police team had already played many games with community groups in an effort to connect with them and promote unity. .
“Westmoreland [police] the football team would have entered the major league every year, so we constantly play football just to interact with the public. We tend to get into a lot of corner leagues. We go to various areas of the division and play football, so we’ve been doing that for a while. We played against Russia, Dalling Street, many communities in Savanna-la-Mar,” he told the Observer.
Sunday’s match, however, took on added meaning; it was in honor of Constable Richard “Bacchas” Barrett, who was murdered on Good Friday.
“Officer Barrett was one of the influential senior constables who always had something positive to say to us as young constables for just walking the straight and narrow path, being effective, efficient, being fair, and everyone admired him. We were never bored around Mr Bacchas so on Friday when we learned that we had lost him, it affected everyone. Football was planned before; however, we have decided to continue and we will do so in his honor,” Whyte said.
The game, he added, had been well received.
“The match was intense, fun. I got a lot of positive feedback. The request from the taxi operators is that we do it in the next two weeks, so I’m looking forward to having this game,” said Whyte.
Still on the peak of his victory, Taxi Operators team captain Casey “Berris” McDonald said this was his second time at an event like this and he was thrilled with the opportunity.
“I feel wonderful. It wasn’t even about winning. It was about all the camaraderie between the police and the drivers. It was mostly that for me. Even though it was raining, I really enjoyed. Can’t wait for the next one,” he said.
Westmoreland Football Association chairman Everton Tomlinson said games like the one on Sunday are a way to relieve stress.
“We have the police playing against the JDF, the fire brigade and the doctors. We did this during COVID times as a way to exercise so some of the mental pressure could be released, the stress of their job. This time the taxi drivers signed up because they’re stressed out with bad roads and a lot of stress, so they wanted a way to exercise, so we organized the game,” Tomlinson said. .
He said the matches are also a good way to build positive relationships between the military and the community at large.
“It’s a question of pleasure; so we intend to do it again in two weeks. We can opt for a double head and ask the JDF to play against the firefighters. They were all there watching, and everyone wants to have some of the action,” he said.
“I think it’s a way to trigger what we can call a peaceful solution to stem the crime and focus more on the positive things in the parish. The military are there to serve us daily and we love seeing them build relationships. I think we’re sending a positive message and it’s really for the citizens of Westmoreland to see the camaraderie, friendship and unity between them,” Tomlinson continued.
He hopes these games will gain traction and inspire young people to become more active in community events.
“I hope this will affect all aspects of the community. From the end of Easter, we look forward to competitions for young people. We use them as motivation and an example for the children so that if they want to join one of these services, they will see that sport can bring peace and joy all over the world and [it is what] that we now need in our community and our parish,” he told the Observer.
Despite the downpours which threatened to cast a shadow over the day, Sunday’s game was thrilling and saw superb ball control and quick defensive moves from the fans. The cheering spectators were on their feet for most of the match. It was tied 4-4 at full time as the Cabbies emerged victorious after a 6-5 penalty shootout.
The scorers for the police team were Chenoy Whyte, Romaine Gidarsingh, Ryan Fuller and Dalton Hylton. On the taxi side, an impressive hat-trick was scored by Romero Graham and crowned by Bryan Dennis.
The next match between the two groups is scheduled to take place on May 1 at the Westmoreland Football Complex.