Guyana Police Force needs to go back to the drawing board
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Dear Editor,
IT is my humble opinion that the crime situation, more especially in Georgetown, is spiralling out of control and the Guyana Police Force (GPF) needs to go back to the drawing board in order to bring back law and order. The daily reports of robberies and crimes of violence bring home the reality of the grave situation and the robbery that was committed whilst a post-mortem was in progress indicates the depravity and disrespect of the robbers even to the deceased.

The bicycle gangs of young men cycling around in search of prey; the motor cycle gangs also in search of victims and perhaps with better information as to their victims; the beating to death of Pandit Rishi Bharrat by a group of men drinking and hurling insults to the female members of the late Pandit’s family; persons being awakened and robbed in their homes. All of these factors and more are indicative of my assertion that the police is lacking in their responsibility and duty to the citizens of Guyana. I do not buy the statistics given out by the police that there has been a decrease in crime. No, not at all and so many crimes go unreported as the victims feel it would be a waste of time to make reports when they see and know that nothing will come out of them.

The one spark recently in the fight against this breed of criminals is the lady who after being robbed, followed the bandits in her car and rammed the car that they were in. One robber was caught, charged and remanded to prison. Hats off to this heroic lady who is deserving of a medal. However, one should be careful when reacting to being robbed as it can result in serious injury or death.

The question to be asked is why is the police ineffective? Their duty is to serve and protect! Is that being done? I do not expect that every crime will be solved and that the police will be on the scene whilst crimes are being committed. But they must solve the crimes. They must be able to infiltrate the gangs or pay informers for information. They must by their investigation charge and secure convictions in a large number of cases. They must not only rely on confession statements as I am and have always been suspicious of them. Too many confession statements are obtained with the use of coercion and violence by members of the force. I can tell you that from my experience once a criminal has been caught fairly, either by direct or indirect evidence, and not beaten for a confession, he will respect that police officer who secured the conviction against him.

With the boom in Guyana’s economy there will be many foreigners and tourists coming to Guyana. If they are robbed, then this will tarnish the image of the country and make persons not wanting to come here. This will affect our economy and more particularly the travel sector, taxis, restaurants, entertainment sector, the sectors that supply the restaurants and hotels, persons who work in all the afore-mentioned sectors. Not all of us can live by working in the oil and gas sector. I note that millions have been spent by the government to make the police more mobile and we need to see the statistics how that has helped in this battle.

I make this appeal to the Minister of Public Security and the GPF to begin to be constructive and do what is necessary to let our citizens and all who may come here, be safe.

My recommendations for immediate action by the government and the GPF —
(a) Ensure that the resources to fight crime are utilised constructively. Do an audit of what is required and what is available.

(b) Cultivate informers so that information can be obtained. Pay these informers well and give a bonus as per results.

(c) See how best undercover persons can be used so as to infiltrate areas and gangs. This may prove difficult, considering the small population of Guyana. Approved wire-tapping of phones be done to obtain plans and information of the criminals.

(d) Start or improve a Hot Line System where persons can make reports anonymously if they so wish. The reason why this may not be currently working is that persons have to believe that whatever information is being given is confidential and cannot be traced back to them. As a result, the police will have to utilise individuals that will give confidence to the public at large and be assured that whatever information is given will be confidential.

(e) The image of the Guyana Police Force needs to reflect integrity, care and competency. Persons need to believe in the integrity and ability of the police in receiving information and executing their duties. The recent and current dissension within the top echelons of the police force as regards promotions does not augur well for the future. This must be fixed as quickly as possible.

(f) Education and continuing education for members of the police force should be encouraged. I am not sure how much time off is given, or if tuition and examination fees are paid by the administration. If not, then this should be looked into and once a member passes appropriate examinations, he/she should be compensated in some form. Promotion, increases in salaries or if none of the two, be given extra points when the time for promotion comes up.

(g) Forensics. I know that there has been a push in this direction and I hope that, if possible, that more can be done so that science can help in the fight against crime. However, in order to get and keep professionals in this field, proper and competitive salaries and benefits must be paid.

(h) Minister Benn seems hard-working and a no-nonsense person. He has to be guided by the Police Commissioner and other senior officers. Let them lay out the plans, ensure that they have resources to do the job and if it fails, then there should be repercussions.

(i) Crime affects us all, no matter where you live, ethnicity or job. I would like to see the government and opposition join in this fight and not let it be the case, that the opposition will say at the end of the day that the government has been hopeless. If recommendations have been given and disregarded by the minister or government, then they should be condemned. Do not wait in the slips and pray for failure!

(j) Finally. We have to pay the members of the Guyana Police Force decent salaries. I understand the dilemma of the government that if the salary of one sector is raised then the other sectors will also clamour for the same raise. Which sector is more valuable? All are, as if one falters there will be repercussions in other sections of our society. Money is important, but if there are incentives and benefits to be gained in the long run, then that can be a motivation for integrity and professionalism. Provide housing, education with assistance in travel, school materials and other benefits for the children of members of the force; duty-free concessions for cars after at least 10 years of service and look for other innovations, so that members of the force can add these benefits to their salaries.

(k) I would urge President Ali and his Cabinet to consider this suggestion: It is that for all employees in the public sector and those corporations that serve the public to be given annually a credit of at least $250,000 which they can use when they purchase goods on which VAT has to be paid. This indirectly would immediately increase their purchasing power.

Yours sincerely,
K.A. Juman-Yassin S.C, A.A.

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