Key proposals on police force languishing

Ten years on…

Ten years after its completion, there is little evidence that work is being done to implement the 71 recommendations for the improvement of the police force made in the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) report, despite renewed interest by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Still faced with a severe shortage of ranks, who critics say are inadequately paid and lack the necessary crime fighting tools-areas which were addressed in the report-the Guyana Police Force (GPF) however have said differently. Following discussions between police officials and the  Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee late last month, the police say that work has been done in relation to the recommendations made.

A recent press release stated that members of the force met with Rohee to review the recommendations. It is unclear what is being done in relations to the recommendations made for the other three disciplined forces. The police are today scheduled to speak on the recommendations.

According to the police, intense discussions, in a sincere and open manner, were held with the view to analysing developments that had taken place within the force in terms of the implementation of the recommendations and to garner additional recommended actions on the way forward.

The release said “The Minister (Rohee) highlighted the work of the Special Select Committee established by Parliament which reviewed the Disciplined Forces Commission report on the Police Force, with specific focus on their recommendations as to how the decisions were to be implemented, which were taken on board during the discussions.

“During the presentation by the Force, and arising from the interactions, a high level of appreciation was expressed for the work already done in effectuating most of the 71 recommendations.”

It was noted too that the GPF is presently compiling a working document, inclusive of all the applicable recommendations made during the one-day session, in keeping with its thrust to ensure that the DFC’s recommendations are implemented. No information was provided as to what work has already been done in relation to the implementation of some of the recommendations.

These discussions came weeks after Rohee, during his review of activities of his ministry for 2013, had acknowledged that the ministry had been haphazard over the reforms recommended in the DFC report and he had pledged urgent action this year.

The commission came into being during a time when Guyana was faced with a wave of serious crimes, particularly on the East Coast, and those sitting on the commission were tasked with making recommendations for improvement to respond to the public security crisis for not only the GPF but also the other disciplined forces – the Guyana Prison Service, Guyana Fire Service and the Guyana Defence Force. A total of 164 recommendations were made for the four forces and that report was handed over to then Speaker of the National Assembly Ralph Ramkarran, in May 2004. The report was then laid before the National Assembly on May 17 and was accepted unanimously. A select committee was then established in November 4, 2004, with a mandate to report to the National Assembly in four months but this process dragged on for years.

After spending six years before the Special Parlia-mentary Select Committee, the review report of the recommendations made by the Disciplined Forces Com-mission, was on June 10, 2013 unanimously passed by the National Assembly, prompting Rohee to then predict the continued modernisation of the country’s disciplined services.

The DFC, which was sworn in on June 30, 2003, comprised Justice Ian Chang, attorney and present Attorney General Anil Nandlall, former GDF Brigadier David Granger, former Attorney General Charles Ramson and Irish human rights activist Maggie Bierne. Bierne resigned subsequently and was replaced by Dr. Harold Lutchman.

The report outlined recommendations for the police under various headings, including recruitment and training, ethnic balance and complaints against the police.

 

Investigative capabilities

 

With respect to the police force’s functions and operations, it was recommended that a preventative policing policy should be revived and effectuated; the investigative capabilities of the GPF be strengthened; the non-entry, in addition to non-exit, of illicit drugs should be made a focus of preventative policing and a sound national criminal intelligence system should be established and maintained. It was also recommended that ranks be encouraged to identify potential informants and gain their trust and that the “ill-considered transfers of Force members” be avoided so as not to disrupt well-established information networks.

In the report, it was recommended that “the name and place within the Force structure of that special squad known as the ‘Black Clothes’ squad should be clarified for public information” as well as the strict control, careful selection, training, re-training, discipline, special rotation of membership and the requirement that those who are not working on under-cover duties wear clearly identifiable uniform, should be enforced for members of special squads.

Back then the DFC recognized the need for DNA testing as an important asset for the police. It was recommended that the means to conduct DNA testing be acquired as well as the recruitment of scientific experts from society at large to serve the GPF scientific laboratory, and who would not be inhibited by the requirement to carry GPF rank, should be pursued. A Forensic Lab is set to open its door sometime in the near further but from what this newspaper has been told DNA testing is still not on the front burner.

The report recommended that more personnel should be trained in handwriting, fingerprinting, ballistics and related fields and they should be deployed in the divisions so as to reduce the need for all such investigations to come to CID Headquarters at Eve Leary.

It stated that the control and command structure of the GPF, as it pertains to file transmission, should be relaxed so as to obviate the need for extensive minutes and to expedite receipt of legal advice from the DPP.

According to the report the means for greater use of legal expertise within the GPF should be established and the secondment of Force members, who are Attorneys to the DPP’s Chambers, for about two years to acquire professional experience should be considered.  Additionally, a consistent level of ‘service and protection’ to the public on a 24 hours basis should be provided and if necessary, the shift system, especially at rural and hinterland stations, should be restructured appropriately.

It was stated too that civilians should be contracted to perform functions that do not require police training as it relates to the examination of vehicles for road fitness certificates; processing of passport applications and typing and secretarial work. The serving of summonses and similar or related duties in rural areas should be done by Rural Constables, the DFC recommended while adding that the use of common excuses (such as “there’s no transportation”) to cover-up neglect of duty should be eliminated.

The report said that the GPF members should be trained to remain unmoved and dispassionate especially in the face of provocation.

As it relates to the structure of the Force, it was recommended that some elements of the training and disciplinary activity that may be perceived as ‘military’ should be maintained. It was recommended that more sub-divisions and police stations should be established and police presence increased, especially in new housing areas such as “Sophia and high-crime-risk areas such as Lethem”, after careful analysis of the risk of criminal activity.

It was recommended that divisional commanders should be empowered to act for, and on behalf of, the Commissioner in their Divisions, the numerical strength of the GPF should be augmented; rural Constables should be paid and they should be issued precepts, as provided by statute; the burden of training private security personnel should be removed from the GPF; members of the Special Constabulary should be relieved of guard duties and be allowed to function as true GPF reserves and Part XIV of the Police Act should be repealed.

 

Recruitment and Training

 

Under this heading it was recommended that career attractiveness should be enhanced by, for example, the review of salary structure and substantial increases in remuneration. The commission was of the view that the probationary period should be used to dispense with personnel undesirable character traits before they become entrenched in the Force.

It was stated that urgent consideration should be given to the examination of the three cadet schemes to determine whether any changes are necessary, and what should be done to place the selection and training of cadets on a regular basis.” A revitalized cadet scheme could be canvassed among successful secondary school and university graduates”, the report said.

Efforts should be made to remove the misperception that the GPF is the preserve of any one ethnic group and to promote instead the concept of a unitary national Force, it stated while adding that recruits should be offered a confidential avenue to air their grievances and the minimum educational criterion for recruitment should be raised from a sound primary education to at least a sound secondary education.

The commission recommended that all GPF members should be made aware of the limits of their statutory powers; they should be trained to appreciate the value of being community-friendly, so as not to alienate the public; they should also be trained in courtesy and politeness; investigators should be trained to fully and comprehensively investigate criminal allegations; proper instruction classes about constitutional safeguards relevant to police functions such as powers of arrest and granting of bail should be conducted and the Police Academy should be established (with at least one intake of cadets every year) due to the need to produce well-educated officers who are skilled in police duties.

The need for ethnic balance did not escape the attention of the commission. It was recommended that the aim should be to achieve a Force representative of the ethnic diversity of the nation without employing a quota system, which would be constitutionally offensive; that a forensic audit should be carried out of current trends of recruitment and the results and subsequent reviews should be placed in the public domain; that ethnically diverse recruitment and promotion panels should be employed as openly and extensively as possible; that a policy, distinct from that for recruitment, should be employed to provide inducements, such as better conditions of work, for all ethnic groups to remain in the GPF; that inter-racial teamwork should be fostered to engender inter-racial cohesiveness; that the rules and practices of the GPF should be adapted to cater for the needs of an ethnically-diverse workforce, especially as regards religious beliefs, meals and racial equality; that the membership of the GPF should be augmented, especially as regards Indo-Guyanese, without introducing conscription and that the effective disciplinary measures must be introduced to counter any racial or sexual harassment.

The commission in addition to the recommendations outlined above in relation to ethnic balance also called for a commitment to be secured from senior ranks for a change of attitude in dealing with lower ranks.

In terms of community policing, the DFC recommended that the membership of these groups and other interested members of the communities should be carefully screened for induction into the Rural Constabulary and a proper system of training and instruction relevant to community policing and other rural constabulary duties should be implemented for those selected and appointed. Those who are not fit to be inducted into the Rural Constabulary should be encouraged to act merely as the `eyes and ears’ and not the `coercive arm’ of their communities.

It was recommended too that there is need to legitimize the practice of community policing within some legislative framework, so as to ensure that community-policing functions are “institutionalized, strictly supervised and monitored”. According to the report the criteria for the grant of firearm licences should not hinge on membership of a community policing group and the Officers-in-Charge of police stations should maintain records of licensed firearm holders and their firearms, whenever they allow them to be used on community-policing duty.

Extra-Judicial Killings

In relation to extra judicial killings it was recommended that during training, emphasis must be placed on the fact that “the use of minimum necessary force” is always to be preferred, even in confrontations with armed and dangerous criminals as well as appropriate instruction and training should be given to policemen about the circumstances under which they may resort to the use of the firearm. There have been numerous cases in the past  where suspects have been shot dead by the police when less force could have been applied.

It was recommended that permission to carry firearms should be restricted to GPF members who clearly demonstrate a high degree of responsibility. “On occasion, where it is necessary to equip junior ranks with firearms for frontline duties and the responsibility element is doubtful in such ranks, they should be under the control of a mature, responsible and experienced supervising rank”, the report said adding that in anticipation of the abolition of the felony-murder rule, immediate steps should be taken to re-orient the attitude of the GPF regarding the use of deadly force.

Meanwhile, the DFC held the view that on account of the DPP’s constitutional powers, the GPF should be mindful of its conventional obligation to give effect to advice from the DPP; only in rare cases should a different course be taken. It was recommended too that Parliament should establish a Commission on Public Safety to which the Minister of Home Affairs would be answerable and matters of priority for such a Commission could include the police annual report and the collection and dissemination of crime statistics.

Complaints against Police

It was recommended that training and instruction should be provided for GPF members to create awareness of their responsibilities under the Police Complaints Authority Act (PCA) and that the PCA should be provided with an investigative team consisting of trained police investigators who are directly responsible and accountable to the Authority and that these ranks would be transfer there for the purpose of transparency.

The DFC recommended too that staffing of the PCA should be completed in accordance with its legislation utilizing retired police officers and others with requisite skills and competence and that the independence of the PCA should be maintained by providing more administrative and financial resources.

Rohee in his end of year report early last month had said that the recommendations made in respect of the PCA will also be given greater attention. The lack of independent investigators at the PCA has been a matter of concern for over two decades.

Meanwhile with respect to Firearm Licences it was recommended that regulatory amendments to the Firearms Act should be introduced in order to bolster supervisory control over divisional commanders who grant firearm licences, in keeping with the general objective of GPF Standing Order 91/64. It was recommended too that the Commissioner of Police should continue to have strict supervision and control over divisional commanders with regard to the granting of firearm licences; that the Force should adhere strictly to the statutory criteria for the grants of firearm licences; that no attempt should be made to correct previous indiscriminate grants of firearm licences by a general recall and re-issue of existing licences and that the Minister of Home Affairs should utilize his statutory powers to make standard and uniform regulations with regard to firearm licensing so as to guard against allegations of political interference.

This had been a major issue during the reign of the death squads in 2003-8 and recently came back to the surface after a gunman went berserk on Middle Street and killed four people including two policemen. The gunman had once shot himself with an illegal firearm and should therefore not been eligible for a licence.

Granger in giving comments on police related matters have repeatedly drawn this newspaper’s attention to the government’s failure to implement the recommendations listed in the report which is said will help to reform the force.

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