A SAD reality in Guyana is the distrust citizens generally have for police ranks, seemingly with great justification.
This was highlighted in the address to the National Assembly during Budget Debates 2020 by Home Affairs Minister Benn, who asserted: “… police corruption is a major problem.”
The general public’s perception of police ranks at every level, with very few exceptions, is that they take bribes. Police have been accused, rightly or wrongly, of loaning their guns to bandits and of setting free dangerous prisoners who were captured with great effort and at great risk to their professional fellow officers, to commit crimes then returning to their holding cells, for a percentage of the spoils.
The incarceration of the perpetrator is the alibi they use in the event they are recognised and accused of committing the crime.
They have even been accused of perpetrating criminal pursuits themselves; and it is only just that, when rogue cops are caught, they should be disciplined in more punitive ways than the penalties meted to civilians, because they are supposed to be guardians of the laws of the land and protector of the society, so their felonious actions are tantamount to crimes against the State, and therefore treasonous.
They disgrace their uniform, and the organisation to which they belong. They bring disrepute to the entire force with their criminal actions and should be dealt with condignly by their own counterparts in the service, as in a well-publicised case where one policeman nabbed three colleagues taking bribes.
Minibus conductors know all the traffic policemen who take bribes and their stories of persecution by those delegated to protect travellers from lawless road-users who commit traffic violations that endanger lives are many. Amnesty should be offered to those who were coerced into paying bribes by the disreputable brigade of lawmen.
One minibus conductor complained of being threatened with being arrested for driving without a driver’s licence when he was merely sitting in the driver’s seat of a properly-parked vehicle while fixing a loose wire in the dashboard. He alleged that he had to pay the police $15,000 before he was released from custody and his impounded bus was returned to him.
The law banning music from minibuses is constantly being flouted, within hearing of police ranks, who most often ignore the cacophony because they themselves feel that music in minibuses is enjoyable and should be tolerated by those who object, so they abdicate their responsibility to the public of being guardians and/or enforcers of the law, despite their personal preferences.
The travelling public is still being held to ransom by the lawless minibus operators, and the noise levels keep rising higher and higher, even while the police are present (blithely ignoring the cacophonous and often vulgar sounds). Police have, themselves, been observed gyrating, even while in uniform, to the lewd, deafening sounds emanating from boom boxes installed in minibuses and taxis; and/or private cars operating with impunity as taxis, disturbing residents as well as passengers, but caring not a whit because they know that they would not be held accountable for their actions.
The rogues have to be weeded out by loyal and honest members of the force themselves in sting operations, bearing in mind that the disgrace falls not merely on the renegades, but that it filters down to every officer, even those proven to be heroes, who had given service to their country beyond the call of duty.
There have been heroic members of the disciplined forces, who have put their lives in jeopardy to protect and serve the citizens of this nation, and their reputations should not be tarnished because of a greedy, lawless few, so these professional police men and women should be adjured not to turn a blind eye to the wrongdoings of their colleagues, because inaction in instances of wrongdoing of rogue officers impact the reputation of the entire police force and engenders an ineradicable distrust in the minds of law-abiding citizens for members, barring none, of the Guyana Police Force.
Minister Benn’s professed intention to take steps to professionalise the police force may, hopefully in the near future, restore a relationship where citizens of the land can, with great confidence, appeal to police officers for service and protection, with the absolute conviction that their police officers are trustworthy and can be expected “to protect and serve” the law-abiding citizens of the land.