The first woman to serve as commander for the Shady Grove Police Station in Lluidas Vale, St Catherine, is called ‘Muma Jesus’ for a good reason.
“They call me ‘Muma Jesus’ because of my hard work and the stand I take in the community,” Corporal Yvette White Vassell told The Beacon.
Her charisma and pragmatism have earned her much respect throughout the police area, which covers communities such as Top Hill, Pennington, Tydixon, Kentish, Juan de-Bolas, Point Hill and a section of Cassava Pond.
Corporal Vassell’s congeniality is rooted in her humble beginnings in the community of Bog Walk, St Catherine.
She vividly recalls walking the relatively long distance between home and Tulloch Primary School, and growing up in a poverty-stricken household with her late grandmother, Lintena Matthews.
“Growing up wasn’t easy; I had it rough, but my grandmother tried with me,” Corporal Vassell said. “I wasn’t even able to do CXC exams when I was leaving St Catherine High School; we just couldn’t afford it at the time.”
Determined to excel, however, Corporal Vassell later attended evening classes at DintHill Technical High School, where she attained some CXC subjects. She is now on the cusp of completing her associate’s degree in Social Work at Moneague College.
Corporal Vassell also pursued courses in practical nursing, which enabled her to work at different homes for the elderly.
Her heart’s true desire was fulfilled on 15 July 1995 when she became a law enforcer, serving initially in the Island Special Constabulary Force, which was later absorbed by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF).
“I would pay any cost to serve and protect,” Corporal Vassell told The Beacon. “I would go the extra mile to ensure that justice is served.”
Her job has taken her through various roles and through police stations in Half-Way-Tree, Linstead, Ewarton and now Lluidas Vale.
Corporal Vassell’s stint in the rural community of Lluidas Vale started with general duties in February 2017. Four month later, however, she became station commander – a post she held until late last month.
Her tenure as station commander in Lluidas Vale unfolded under highly peculiar and challenging circumstances. For example: the police station was relocated from the central area of the community to a highly remote section, resulting in the town centre becoming a soft target for gunmen who did not miss the chance to perpetrate robberies and create mayhem at night.
The situation was compounded by the severe shortage of human resource and vehicles.
“I think I did very well in spite of the flare up of robberies,” Corporal Vassell told The Beacon. She added: “Along with my staff, I worked to the best of my ability. Even if we were short [on resources], we still went the extra mile to ensure our station was manned.”
There were 13 law enforcers assigned to Shady Grove Police Station when Corporal Vassell was in charge, but two were out due to illness.
However, since residents blocked roads last Wednesday for improved security, Lluidas Vale has received additional resources.
Amid the fiery protests, news also emerged that, a few days before residents took to the streets, Corporal Vassell was replaced by a higher ranked officer, Sergeant Oliver Johnson.
Corporal Vassell, now on vacation leave, said she is not surprised by the fact that she was replaced, considering that station commanders are usually no lower than the rank of Sergeant. Unless she was promoted, her replacement was just a matter of time.
Corporal Vassell told The Beacon that she will throw her full support behind the new station boss. “I will work alongside Sergeant Johnson; I will support him and continue to work hard,” she further said. “I will continue to do my best to ensure that the Lluidas Vale community again becomes a quiet and peaceful place where persons can safely go about their usual business.”
Corporal Vassell said, despite the lows, there were many highs in her relatively brief stint as station commander.
A stickler for community policing, she spearheaded a number of meetings with residents, assisted a police team in the Lluidas Vale Football Corner League, forged strong relationships with schools, stepped up enforcement of the Road Traffic Act, and resurrected two police youth clubs – one each in Tydixon and Lluidas Vale proper.
Corporal Vassell, who is also known for her charitable deeds in the valley of the fog – Lluidas Vale, said things can only get better. “My passion is to serve my country,” she declared. “At the end of the day, I would like to be remembered for the hard work I do in this community.”
By Horace Mills, Journalist