Home Minister Clement Rohee yesterday disclosed that he recently asked Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell to effect a “total change of guard” at the Number 51 Village Police Station, in the light of robbery attacks over the past weeks on Corentyne villages.
Rohee made the disclosure at a PPP/C press conference yesterday, where he said he has also ordered a report on the situation in the area in light of Corentyne residents blocking the main road at Number 48 Village on Sunday after an attack in which they alleged that police were involved. The police stated that after ranks arrived to investigate the robbery at a grocery store belonging to Lalman Ramdeen, 66, and his wife Vimlawattie Ramdeen, 62, villagers reported a similar vehicle was seen “travelling in a suspicious manner,” heading away from the scene.
Divisional Commander Assistant Commissioner Brian Joseph and other ranks eventually managed to persuade the residents to remove the trucks and other materials that were used to block the roadway.
Residents previously told Stabroek News that they have complained repeatedly to the police but to no avail and this had led many residents to believe that the police complacency is due to their involvement in the acts.
This robbery was the latest in a series stemming from the Christmas season where residents of Numbers 49, 55, 56 and 57 villages suffered a series of stick-ups and home invasions, in which their families were traumatised and they lost millions of dollars in cash and property.
“We did receive report about a string of robberies and I was very concerned about that and drew my concerns to the attention of the commissioner and this was less than a week ago,” Rohee told reporters.
He cited a January 18 Stabroek News report on vigilante groups being formed along the Corentyne and noted that prior to the article, the ministry was already aware of the incidents but he “didn’t want to get into Stabroek News baiting” and as a result did not make a public commentary.
According to Rohee, he did, however, recommend to Brumell that there be a total change of guard at the Number 51 Police Station. He noted that he can only give general orders and directions and it was up to the commissioner since he has command and control over the ranks. However, he said he would await the commissioner’s report on the situation to see what action was taken on his recommendation.
Asked about public doubts about the police investigating themselves, Rohee noted that while there might be circumstances that might require independent investigation, the police force is the only body in Guyana legally authorised to conduct investigations of crimes and allegations of crime.
He added the calls for independent investigations are the result of the public’s lack of confidence in the police force, which he believed could be tackled by addressing the image of the force.
Rohee noted that if the public perception of the police were to be corrected, “the question of public confidence in the police, it would seem to me, that concern would be removed almost immediately.” He did not, however, have an answer as to how to begin this process. Rohee simply stated that police had an obligation to “walk the villages like the constables use to do before and not stand aloof from the population.”
He also stated that police officers need to “get out of this we know it all syndrome… the police does not know it all they cannot know it all.”