-Rohee urges cops
Addressing some resistance to the ongoing police reform, Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee has told junior and senior officers that they need to “get on board” in order to make the police force responsive to the demands for an improved performance.
Speaking at the Police Officers’ Annual Conference on Thursday, Rohee emphasised that while there are many challenges accompanying the institutional reform of the force, the opportunities created far outweigh the negatives.
He noted that the objective of the Ministry of Home Affairs is not to dismantle the force’s organisational structure but to ensure that citizen security is improved by further developing it into an entity that could rise to the challenges posed by the demands of modern day policing.
In this regard, he cautioned that reforms are not static. “As a consequence, you are required to get on board and stay on board if the Guyana Police Force is to remain an organisation that is responsive to the demands of society for an improved quality of policing,” he said.
Rohee acknowledged that apprehension about change was natural but said that while many of the officers may think that the old systems are acceptable, changes are inevitable.
He also sought to clarify what he called a “misconception” about the current Officer Cadet Scheme. He explained that the decision by the government to train 50 additional Cadet Officers was made as a result of the realisation that in the long term the force would need the injection of a corps of young men and women who would in a number of years, move into higher positions. “They would be developed side by side with those Officers who will move up through the Ranks in the normal way. The Government of Guyana is taking steps to facilitate the upward movement of those Cadets who qualify, to the Rank of Assistant Superintendent. However, that promotion will not be automatic,” he explained, adding that the Cadet Officers will have to satisfy the conditions set out in Police Standing Order 22, which includes the passing of certain examinations. Those Cadet Officers who are due to be elevated, he further said, should take note and put themselves in order.
Rohee said the step that was taken by the government “to make this one-off special arrangement” to recruit the 50 Cadet Officers as part of the modernization programme for the force. He noted that when the Cadets are eventually promoted to the rank of Assistant Superintendent, they will have to compete with other officers in their rank structure for elevation to higher positions.
Rohee said many persons see reform from a negative perspective and are defensive when exposed to change. “They are comfortable with the “status quo” and by natural instinct offer resistance in many ways. This could be seen during the reform process of the force where because of a number of reasons, some members of the organisation have tended not to appreciate the efforts that are underway to reform the Guyana Police Force,” he said.
He said too that selling the idea of reform to the rank and file of the force was also a challenge.
“If there is not an effective mechanism in place to explain to the rank and file of the force the need for the reform, the rate of acceptance will be low and the efforts at change will be slow and more difficult to be achieved,” he explained, while adding that he was “concerned” that more could be done by the “drivers” of the reform process to convince all members about its importance. Towards this end, he said the internal mechanism of the force must be more effective in communicating change.
Similarly, he noted that selling the reform agenda to the external stakeholders of the force, both local and international, has also been a challenge and he felt that not enough is being done by the police force’s administration to educate stakeholders about the ongoing institutional reform. “Too often the Ministry of Home Affairs is left to champion the reform agenda of the Guyana Police Force. While it could not be denied that the Ministry of Home Affairs has a role to play in this process, there is a need for the Guyana Police Force to be in the forefront of the campaign,” he said.
Another challenge to the reform, according to Rohee, is developing an effective monitoring and evaluation framework to allow for periodic assessments to be made to satisfy internal and external stakeholders that the goals set are being met and whether adjustments are required to reshape any programme.
He said this is an area in where the 10-man Strategic Management Department (SMD) and the force administration have to collaborate closely and he added that the ministry requires a better working relationship between the SMD and the Change Facilitators of the force.
Rohee also said that continued reports about police misconduct would make it difficult to convince the public that reform is indeed taking place in the force. “There would be a need for effective “clean up” to be done to the image of the Force. Don’t be fooled by opportunists who try to justify the action by members of the force who get involved in corruption by claiming that their salaries are low,” he said, while adding that the most effective method of combating corruption is the application of effective deterrent mechanisms, including effective management and supervision systems.
Another challenge he identified was the capacity of members of the police force to implement the reform. Although he said the challenge was in part addressed by the Ministry of Home Affairs in consultation with the Senior Managers of the force with the implementation of the SMD, he disclosed that there is still a need for their counterparts in the Guyana Police Force to have the capacity to carry out the required changes. This would require urgent and additional training, he added.
Rohee also spoke about opportunities created as a result of the reform process, including better positioning the force to improve citizen security and improve public confidence in it.
“There is some amount of skepticism—partially justified—in some quarters about the ability of the force to prevent and detect crimes. This in many instances could relate to the personal experiences of some persons who make contact with members of the force,” he admitted, before adding that an efficient and effective police force would be the answer to this problem.
He said too that a properly implemented reform strategy could result in the development of the skills of members of the force to carry out their functions. He added that this would be achieved by training at all levels in areas, including: public order; crime reduction including the use of technology; anti-narcotics and anti-money laundering; and traffic management.
The technological development of the force was also identified as an opportunity that would result from the reform process. Rohee noted that the Integrated Crime Information System (ICIS) that was initiated by the Ministry of Home Affairs, principally for the Guyana Police Force, is intended to take the force further into the technological age by facilitating the use of computer-based information systems to record, analyse and retrieve data. He also said that with the help of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI), the Guyana Police Force has recently been provided with the Automated Fingerprint Identification System, which has already produced positive results.
Rohee also noted that with the implementation of a force recruitment and retention strategy, he expected a better quality of policemen and women would be drafted into the force and that there would be a reduced attrition rate. He said he expected that it would include the provision of better accommodation facilities for training at the training colleges and work at stations.
The development of a succession planning programme for the force, Rohee also said, is also an opportunity that would stem from reform. He informed that during his tenure as the Minister of Home Affairs, he had observed that a significant amount of stress and strain has been placed on the senior management structure of the force when senior officers reached their retirement age. “This problem could have been avoided if the Guyana Police Force had in place a properly organised succession planning scheme,” he said, while noting that the current system could cause chaos.