Residents of No 48 Village, Corentyne and surrounding communities were overjoyed yesterday afternoon after Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell assured them that ranks from the No 51 Police Station would be replaced by a new batch.
They responded to the announcement with loud applause, having lost confidence in the previous set of law enforcers. They were also promised that confidence in the police would be restored.
Residents had complained that calls to the station went unanswered and that despite a spate of armed robberies from since last December, no actions were taken by the police.
Brumell, was at the time meeting with the residents at the No 48 Primary School who had staged protest actions on Sunday after four armed masked bandits invaded the home and shop belonging to Vimlawatie ‘Dato’ Ramdeen and her husband, Lalman Ramdeen. Residents had blocked a police car and accused cops of participating in the robberies. The police commander had to help restore order at the scene.
Present yesterday too were Assistant Commissioner, Administration Balram Persaud; Commander of ‘B’ Division, Brian Joseph, other senior officers from Berbice and Georgetown along with staff from the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and members of parliament: Vishwa Mahadeo and Dharamkumar Seeraj.
The commissioner told the residents that the ranks would be transferred because it would be to the benefit of the force. Brumell also promised that the perpetrators would be arrested, interviewed and placed before the court. Residents apparently did not understand when the commissioner said the ranks would be transferred and they inquired which station they would make their reports to. He told them the station in their district and they started to shout that they could not go there. But when he repeated that the officers would be transferred they started clapping.
He said too that the force would not condone misconduct and that once the evidence is produced the ranks would be dealt with. Referring to the protest on Sunday evening, Brumell said he does not like “stand-offs” as it is “not the best thing.”
He said the police have a job to do but called on residents to work together. He knows that once that happens “we can get some information.” He also said that the Community Policing Groups would be reactivated.
He noted that when he hears about robberies on the Corentyne the first impression he gets is that young persons are trying to cause discomfort in the community.
He said he does not like to “hear about robberies and when I hear about robberies in certain areas, it makes me uncomfortable… I have to answer a lot of questions.”
“As long as I have to answer a lot of questions, my commander also have to answer a lot of questions from me.”
He said the fact that the bandits wore masks meant that they did not want to be identified. According to him, he instructed for someone to “check Berbice” and learnt that most of the ranks were from the Corentyne. Because of familiarity, many persons were “not saying anything because of fear of retribution.”
He urged them to make complaints to the officers from the OPR at the end of the meeting.
The commissioner has appointed Inspector Khali Pareshram, who is stationed at Whim, to head the No 51 station as well as those from Albion to Molson Creek.
A resident of the community, Krishndat Persaud, also asked for joint patrols. He also acknowledged the low salary the police earn and asked for it to be tax-free. He also said that Pareshram would be given the full support of the residents.
During the meeting the residents expressed disapproval at times when they were not pleased with what was being said. They were also becoming agitated easily and had to be calmed down.
Residents complained about the big drug dealers not being caught and Balram Persaud promised to deal with offenders who would “face full brunt of the law.” He also said that the force is 20% under-staffed and urged persons to apply.
Home Minister Clement Rohee on Monday disclosed that he recently asked 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, also General Secretary of the PPP, made the disclosure at a party press conference, 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.
“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.
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.”