WHAT is always an issue is whether a police force performs its duties in a professional manner and if there is adherence to Human Rights and the Rule of Law. The observance or not, of this enshrined dictum will determine the level of public cooperation and the police’s ability to prevent and solve crimes.
The Guyana Police Force is in the process of what can be described as a renewal, emerging from a period which witnessed its descent to unheard-of levels of conduct that would not have made proud, those early generation of policemen who had served with distinction.
This coincided with what many senior policemen complained of as being political interference in the management of the local law enforcement institution. It was a phase that recalled policemen being prosecuted for bribery; being part of criminal gangs, hit men, drug trafficking and trafficking in persons; acting as drug escorts and enforcers. Clearly, these were acts that were totally criminal and inimical to any professional police force’s mandate of crime-solving and prevention. Also, excesses were committed against the citizenry that did severe harm to police-community relations.
No doubt, the results were disastrous for crime-prevention and solving, as the number of unsolved crimes mounted, coupled with both a refusal and reluctance of persons to report serious crimes and volunteer information. Today, notwithstanding that there are still challenges to overcome with regard to the general operations of the local police force, the professional climate has been much improved through the Citizens Security Programme, which entails the reform and transformation of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) from an incident-driven reactive institution to one that relies on analysis of patterns, incidents and problems.
Realising that citizens and ultimately the community are still pivotal in the goal of crime-prevention, the Guyana Police Force over the years has embarked on what can be described as a rebuild with communities strategy. This programme targeted particular communities that were crime ‘hot spots’, with various initiatives such as skills and entrepreneurship training for youths, sports and lectures on the advantages of communities working together with the law, being crime-free were held.
An example of this has been the training for Youth at Risk, involving youths from East Berbice-Corentyne and Demerara/ Mahaica. This was facilitated through a technical cooperation agreement in support of the Citizen Sector Strategy(CSS). Interventions as these, have led to a reduction of crime among youths in the Berbice community, Albouystown and West Coast Demerara among other areas.
Also, there was the very productive effort of the Cops and Faith innovation that combined religious faiths and the police, working with youths in these areas. The paradigm appears to be slowly but surely shifting towards the police in their various divisions being more community-oriented and problem-solving (COPS). Apparently, the number one law enforcement agency in Guyana is paying more attention to solving crime and also problems in the communities they serve. Crime-solving since has never been so high. Not only has some cold cases been solved; but, current crimes, especially murders, have witnessed an almost 100 percent success in apprehension of the perpetrators. Perpetrators have been quickly arrested and placed before the courts.
Further proof of the improvement in community-police relationship have time again been manifested in recent times with the Guyana Police Force being able to speedily re-capture prison escapees and other criminals. Apart from a few cases of citizens harbouring escapees, communities were applauded for doing their civic duty of informing the police as to the presence/whereabouts of these fugitives, in their communities. There is no police force in a society that is predicated on human rights, law and order that can perform its seminal task of crime-solving and crime-prevention, without cooperation from its citizens. For among the latter, there is information as to who did the crime, where, and when.
The new dispensation which commenced from May, 2015, has caused a renewed sense of duty among policemen/ women to protect and serve; a realisation that citizens’ rights should be respected, if their cooperation is to be courted for the prevention and solving of crime. Policemen are being given training opportunities, locally and abroad, for enhancement of crime-prevention and crime-solving skills.
Let it be reiterated that a police force that is professional and that has the support of communities and their citizens, will be successful crime-solvers, becoming effective protectors of that nation.