By Francis Quamina Farrier
THIS is the third and final in the series of feature articles written to be part of the 180th Anniversary of the Guyana Police Force. This features some Police trivia. Many of these facts I already knew, while a few were provided by Superintendent Jairam Ramlakhan, Head of the Police Public Relations Division. So, let’s get started.
In the colonial British Guiana Police Force, all the Senior Ranks were either English or Scottish. No local policeman was ever promoted to the Senior Ranks. The last expatriate Police Commissioner was H. Puttock.
Police Headquarters was relocated from Brickdam to Eve Leary in 1956.
The majority of Police Stations are located on a main Public road. However, there are a few who are not. They include the Grove Police Station on the East Bank of Demerara, the Cove and John Station on the East Coast Demerara, the Whim Station on the Corentyne Coast, the MacKenzie Station in Linden, the New Amsterdam, Central Police Station which straddles the Strand and Main Street.
All previous wooden Police Stations which had to be rebuilt were done so in concrete. They include the Aurora, Bartica, New Amsterdam and Parika stations.
The colour scheme of most Police Stations is Blue and White.
One of the best-kept compounds is Charity (2018).
One of the most welcoming stations is Leguan (2019).
Crime Chief, David Rose led one of the biggest police manhunts in the history of the Force. He and his men came under heavy gunfire from the murderer and desperado, Clement Cuffy. In one of the encounters at Namrick Backdam, East Bank Essequibo, a bullet from the desperado blew David Rose’s police cap off. An inch lower would have pierced the Crime Chief’s head. That manhunt led by David Rose was produced as a Radio Play by Francis Quamina Farrier. At Independence, David Rose later became Guyana’s Governor General. A school and a street, both in Georgetown, bear his name.
Former Commissioner Winston Felix became a Minister of Government.
Two Commissioners had the name Felix; Winston Felix and Felix Austin.
Many who knew Commissioner Felix Austin, regard him as the most gentleman of all the Commissioners. He walked upright and with a pleasant countenance. Always immaculately dressed whether in uniform or wearing his usual civilian white suit. The Police School bears his name.
Two Commissioners had the name Austin; Felix Austin and Carl Austin.
Guyanese-born Commissioners include Felix Austin, Carl Austin, Lloyd Barker, Balram Raghubir, Floyd McDonald, Laurie Lewis, Leroy Brummell, Henry Greene, Seelall Persaud and Leslie James.
Laurie Lewis was the longest serving Commissioner (11 years).
Henry Greene is the only Commissioner to have died while still in office.
Some Senior Guyanese Officers have served in the Antigua Police Force. They Include Former Crime Chief David Rose, Former Traffic Chief Fred Peterkin and Former Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe.
There was the popular and highly respected team of Tom and Austin in the 1950s, who were well-admired for their Crime busting activities. For example, when there were many attacks on couples relaxing on the Georgetown seawalls, Tom and Austin – one dressed as a female – went and sat close together on the seawalls where they lured and arrested criminals who attempted to attack them.
Inspector John Campbell was the most culturally active policeman in Guyana. He wrote poems and plays and even acted in plays at the Theatre Guild. After rehearsals one night, we were in the Playhouse compound when a thief snatched the handbag of a nurse on her way home from the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital on Parade Street. The thief ran south towards Lamaha Street. John Campbell dashed out the Playhouse compound and ran North along Parade Street towards Barrack Street. He captured the thief in a yard in west Kingston, still with the nurse’s handbag in his possession. John Campbell knew the territory well and those criminals who resided there. The Police Force Library bears his name.
Senior Superintendent Charmaine Stuart created history in the Guyana Police Force Band by becoming the first woman to be appointed as Bandmaster. Her Deputy, also a woman, is Assistant Superintendent Michelle Major.
Former Bandmaster Barnie Small was born and grew up in Barbados. Before him, Bandmaster Major Henwood was called “Snake Hips”, due to the way he swayed his hips as he conducted the band.
Harry Whittaker and Keith Waithe are the most accomplished individual members of the Band. There used to be one hour Band Concerts every Saturday afternoon at the Georgetown Seawall Bandstand in the colonial days. There is now a steelpan section of the Band.
One can only speculate who was the heaviest Police Commissioner; was it Carl Austin, or was it Henry Greene? Both men tipped the scale at well over 300 pounds.
The smallest Commissioner was certainly Leroy Brummell who is under six feet in height and just about 160 pounds.
It was President Forbes Burnham who reduced the height requirement for recruits to join the Police Force, to under six feet. He did it specifically to accommodate the many short Indigenous recruits.
Police Headquarters is located at Eve Leary. But who was Eve Leary? Where is she buried? I am among just a few persons who know. Pardon; but I will hesitate to give the answer in this article.
I now conclude with one of the most colourful members of the Force. Inspector Joe Braz was a police celebrity with Rock Star status at Gymkhana back in the day. He was a daredevil motorcyclist who thrilled spectators as no other in his day. He was also credited with coining the word “Chowtic”, from the word chaotic, which is pronounced, K-ot-tic. Braz in a Radio Broadcast pronounced the word as it is spelt – “Chowtic”. That pronunciation was used by many Guyanese over the years, in a humorous way.
So, I hope that this last feature article from me for the Guyana Police Force 180 Anniversary, is in no way ‘chowtic’,