MONDAY MAN: Musical ex-cop lived for policing
IN HIS MORE THAN 40 years as an officer in the Royal Barbados Police Force (RBPF), Fitzoswald Taitt has made hundreds of arrests, and it is safe to say that has had his fair share of near-death experiences.
Many years ago he was shot at three times by notorious criminal Simeon “Buddy” Brathwaite. But did that and many other dangerous incidents deter him?
“Never,” Taitt said. “Policing and investigating are what I loved. I would never trade them for the world. I find it a very rewarding job, a good career; I love it. And if I had to live my life again, I would love to be a policeman,” he declared.
Relaxing at his Buckingham Road, Bank Hall, St Michael home, Taitt was very proud, and his face lit up as he talked about his decades in the force investigating murders, robberies and all other facets of crime.
It was a career that at times proved extremely difficult but on most occasions was hugely gratifying. It began in essence back in 1954, but four years earlier, straight out of St Joseph Boys’ School, he became a cadet in the Royal Barbados Police Force Band.
More affectionately known as Conkie, he told the DAILY NATION music was actually his first love, hence the reason for joining the band.
However, his only problem was that he couldn’t play a chord. Good luck for him, through the influence of then director of music Superintendent Prince Cave, a fellow St Joseph boy, bandmaster Captain Charles Raison allowed him a spot.
Taitt went on to learn very well under the tutelage of Cave, becoming known for his clarinet and saxophone prowess. He was privileged to travel to such places as Scotland, Canada and the United States with the band. However, four years after he joined he asked for a transfer to active policing.
At that time, he was a young father and his wife was expecting another baby.
“The money was the problem. I was only a band cadet – not a regular bandsman or policeman, playing out with the band, wearing the uniform and everything, but not getting the pay. I remember a morning like now I got some guts and went to Captain Raison and tell him that I would like a transfer to do active police work,” he recalled.
It was a particularly difficult decision for Taitt, but it was one he believed he had to make.
“After all, when you see kids coming your way, you got to start thinking differently. Sometimes financing bypass thinking about yourself; so this was an opportunity for me to get some more money; that is why I insisted.
The bandmaster didn’t want it. In fact, he objected and told the commissioner he was objecting because I was an up-and-coming clarinet player; but I had to do what I had to for my family,” he said.
The now 83-year-old went on to the Mounted Division before he moved to the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) in 1957.
CID was where the father of six spent the majority of his years. Eleven years later in 1968, he received his first promotion to the rank of corporal. Two years later he moved up to sergeant, then station sergeant and inspector before retiring at acting senior superintendent in 1994.
“I loved investigating, being able to interview people and being able to meet quite a lot of people both here and abroad through training courses. It was a very dangerous job but I loved it. It was very, very interesting. Two days are never the same.”
To him, in spite of the many risks involved when serving, protecting and reassuring citizens, policing was one of the most thankless jobs. He recounted an incident that was a prime example.
“There was an investigation I carried out and it was very risky. We were exposed to all kinds of violence and I remember this lady gave me hell. As fate would have it, she became involved in an incident where somebody beat her up so badly, everyone thought she would dead.
“I hustled to get her to the hospital, put her in my own car and drove her there . . . . It is a very unthankful job. You might be surprised to know that today I might do something remarkably good for a person but tomorrow, I have to arrest a cousin of theirs, and to them I am the worst person there is.
“They would try to instil in you that ‘he, he is the worst person, he is a bad this and that’,” Taitt said.
Nonetheless, he is pleased with the development of the RBPF, particularly its members.
Taitt stressed that years ago there was a notion that the only requirements needed to be recruited into the force was to be “big and black”. Nowadays, it is believed that at least 80 per cent of the force has a university education, something he added should be applauded.
Since his retirement, Taitt has been very active in the Rotary Club of Barbados South, at one stage holding the post of president. (SDB Media)