255 not 288 persons killed by police in past 17 years

Dear Editor,

The Guyana Police Force wishes to respond to an article published in the Stabroek News on Wednesday October 17, 2012, under the caption ‘Granger: Police have killed 288 in 17 years‘ in which leader of the People’s National Congress Reform, Brigadier David Granger condemned the People’s Progressive Party/Civic administration, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Guyana Police for the deaths of over 288 persons in the past 17 years.  While the Guyana Police Force cannot speak for the PPP/C administration or the Ministry of Home Affairs, it seeks to bring the following information to bear.

The procedure to deal with all unnatural deaths that occur within police premises or in police operations is that the police investigate and a file with all the evidence is then forwarded to the Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority who will make his comments.  The file with those comments will then be forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).  The DPP then peruses the file to ascertain if sufficient evidence exists to prefer criminal charges or not.  In the case of the former, the police will be so advised and charges will be laid accordingly.  In the latter case, the DPP will automatically advise that an inquest be held, and thereafter an inquest will be conducted to ascertain if anyone was responsible for the death of the deceased.

The Guyana Police Force record shows that between January 1997 to October 18, 2012, 255 persons were fatally shot by the police.  Some of the circumstances under which these shootings occurred range from:  (a) Gang members exchanging gunfire with the police (Buxton/Agricola, drug trafficking and firearm gang): 43 persons; (b) During the commission of a serious crime: 49 persons; (c) Shot in gunfire exchange with the police in pursuit after the commission of a serious crime: 73 persons; and (d) Berbice bank robbery: 8 persons.

In addition to the above there were 103 incidents where the police shot persons and firearms were recovered.  However, these shootings are not the norm, as Mr Granger seems to suggest, as the environment in which the police were operating was a hostile one, particularly between 2002 and 2004.  Nevertheless, as a result of the shootings by the police 10 officers were charged for murder and 3 for manslaughter.

The 2002 jailbreak which still brings fear to Guyanese saw armed gangs killing persons wantonly, so much so that the Guyana Defence Force had to be called out to assist in quelling the hostile situation that existed.  During this period not only civilians were killed.  Police were also killed in exchanges with armed bandits, and like the soldiers police were injured too.

Over the 17 year period referred to by the PNC Reform leader which taking the current year into account would have commenced in 1995, more than 37 police officers were killed by criminals.  Notably, 24 of these were in the period 2002 to 2004 when there was that hostile environment.

The policy of the police is to save life, and deadly force should only be used as a matter of last resort.  However, if a life is lost there is an investigation and where necessary those culpable are sanctioned.

Yours faithfully,
Whitney Bacchus
Senior Superintendent
Public Relations and Press Officer

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