In light of growing criticisms over the conduct of the Guyana Police Force during the recent Agricola unrest where hundreds of stranded commuters were left unprotected, Police Commissioner (ag) Leroy Brumell has come to the defence of his ranks saying that they were in control of the situation from the beginning but had to use good judgment because of past incidents.
Brumell in speaking to Stabroek News following the presentation of the Force’s Christmas police plan last Friday said that from the time the ranks arrived on the scene they seized control of the situation.
He added that the only thing that was out of the control of the police was the fires.
He explained that because of the prior incidents involving the police (for example Linden and a past history with Agricola), the ranks on the ground had to exercise some amount of restraint. According to Brumell, he believes that everything that was ought to have been done by the ranks was done that day.
No indications were given as to why the robberies occurred, even though, according to him, the situation was under control.
Asked if enough ranks were dispatched to the area to deal with the situation, Brumell said that when a force has a “half unit” that is well trained, it would be capable of dealing with such a situation.
On the afternoon of October 11, persons began blocking the roadway in front of Agricola. During the unrest which lasted for several hours, and which had its origins in the killing of seventeen-year-old Shaquille Grant by a policeman in September, many persons were stranded and there were reports of robberies being committed on stranded commuters.
One victim had recounted to this newspaper that men with jerseys tied around their faces attacked herself and her husband and demanded that she hand over her valuables. She did as she was told. This was around 8.30 pm.
The following day as she was attempting to drive past the community the front windscreen of her car was broken.
The woman who owns a business in the city had said that she did not report the matter to police since she felt that the amount taken was insignificant and because of the fact that she was not harmed during the incident.
However Crime Chief Seelall Persaud had noted that police had received information that persons were robbed during the unrest but no one had come forward to make an official police report.
Police had stated in a press release that criminal elements seized the opportunity presented and proceeded to rob and beat persons who had sought alternative routes through the village.
“The unruly protestors, some of whom were armed with cutlasses and pieces of wood, continually threw incendiary devices, bricks, bottles and other missiles at the police ranks engaged in maintaining law and order, resulting in many of them being hit. One rank, Corporal Kwesi Lawrence of the Tactical Services Unit, sustained burns to both thighs and an injury to his left eye,” the release said, adding that as a result of the protestors’ behaviour, police used rubber bullets and tear smoke.
It was noted that while considerable restraint was used the force would not allow persons who appear to be using the pretext of protesting to cause mayhem and confusion in the society.
When asked about police’s inability to protect the stranded passengers, security expert and opposition leader, retired Brigadier David Granger put it down to bad policing. Granger, a former member of the Disciplinary Forces Commission had told Stabroek News in an interview last week that from his assessment there was an inadequate number of policemen who were unable to bring the protestors under control during the early stages, and that another failing was the inability to anticipate the gravity of the disturbance.