Ex-Police marks 50
It was in 1963 that a former police officer in Barbados who had made his home in Brooklyn hit upon an idea.
Stirred by the sight and the sounds of the Barbados Police Force Band performing in his adopted city New York and recognizing the growing presence of former cops in the five boroughs, Wilfred Best decided it was time to create an organization that would, among other things, assist the men and women who once proudly wore the police uniform in their birthplace but had somehow fallen on hard times in their new home away from home.
At the same time, Best, an energetic immigrant father with a forceful personality, and his band of like-minded Bajans, set out to forge a fraternal body designed to promote a sense of togetherness among the men and women whose sworn duty was to make the island a safe and secure place in which to raise families.
“Mr Best’s idea was to assist any ex-police officer who got into difficulty in the city and to extend a helping hand to various social causes back home,” said Malcolm Best, a former police sergeant.
“Hence the Barbados Ex-Police Association. We owe the late founder a debt of gratitude. The organization is strong and its track record is exemplary.”
The association has emerged not simply as a prominent Bajan institution in the United States but as a model for former police officers from other Caribbean islands.
“There are several ex-police associations in New York and Canada that were formed after us and it is fair to say that most, if not all, were patterned off our organization,” said Anthony Hall, secretary of the Barbados Ex-Police.
The body is now celebrating its 50th anniversary that began in January. Just last week, the association sponsored an anniversary thanksgiving service at St Leonard’s Church, a prominent independent Anglican-oriented religious institution that was launched more than 75 years ago by Barbadians in Brooklyn and remains a flourishing religious edifice.
But the association, which is perhaps the oldest active Barbadian organization in the United States, has done much more than channel its energy into working with former cops.
“The education of our children has always been a prime focus,” said current president Malcolm Best.
“We believe that the future of any community or country is built on education and sound values, and early on we launched a day-care centre in Brooklyn that catered to the needs of parents and their children.
“That emphasis on education was expanded through our scholarships awarded to young Barbadians and is also being continued today in our Saturday tuition programme and in our mentoring efforts, all designed to reach young people, provide them with incentives to stay in school and to help guide them before they go down the wrong path.”
The group has made a name for itself in a variety of areas. For example, it has:
• provided equipment, including a dialysis machine to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital;
• secured computers from Harlem Hospital Medical Centre in Manhattan that were later donated to the Barbados Government for use in various communities;
• gave laptops to both the Barbados emergency response system and the Royal Barbados Police Force Drug Squad;
• adopted two schools in Barbados and Brooklyn, contributing supplies that benefited the students; and
• presented the Royal Barbados Police Force with musical instruments for use by young people interested in music.