The recent revelation that the manpower of the Guyana Police Force will be increased by 45% is a welcome move according to Opposition Leader David Granger who nevertheless expressed the belief that this would have little effect unless there is a holistic approach to the many issues affecting the Force.
Asked to comment on the issue, Granger told Stabroek News yesterday that the focus “is not incorrect.” He said that issues such as the numerical strength of the force and the establishment of more stations in the light of an increase in new housing schemes had been dealt with at length and in detail by the Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) in its report of May 2004.
The Ministry of Home Affairs in a press release said that it has been successful in receiving the approval of Cabinet for an increase in the establishment of the Guyana Police Force from 3,410 to 4,956. This represents a 45% increase. The Force’s establishment of 3,410 was in existence since 1977, the release said.
“This upward adjustment of the strength of the Force has become necessary because of the additional functions that the Police has had to perform over the years”, the release said adding that those added responsibilities have resulted in the Force creating additional specialized units.
Further, because of the development of new housing areas and the expanded economic activities in the interior and other areas in Guyana, the current strength of the Force “has been found to be inadequate to man the existing and new Police Stations that are to be constructed.”
The follow-up administrative procedures that are required to move the process forward are being undertaken, the ministry said.
There was no mention of how this task would be undertaken and in what time frame it would be achieved. Persons who are familiar with the recruitment process told this newspaper that while a large number of persons apply to join the Force many are rejected because they don’t meet basic requirements. It is unclear if in light of the pending increase whether these requirement would be relaxed.
Granger while speaking to Stabroek News made mention of three of the recommendations made by the DFC for the police. He was one of the persons who sat on that commission.
The first recommendation is No. 19 which states 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.” The second is No. 21: “The numerical strength of the GPF should be augmented.” The third is No. 26 which states that “Career attractiveness should be enhanced by e.g., review of salary structure and substantial increases in remuneration.”
A total of 71 recommendations were made for the Force to promote its efficiency, among other things.
Granger stated that the areas that the ministry outlines as the reason behind the increase are matters that were dealt with ten years ago. Previously Granger had been very critical of the administration for continuing to have the Force under strength and starving it of the resources necessary for its members to effectively carry out their functions. He questioned how the issue of under strength can be dealt with when the current members are being underpaid. He said that he cannot imagine how they will increase the manpower strength if it continues to be “unattractive.”
“Policing will not improve unless the qualification of recruits is improved,” he said.
“It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense unless the Ministry of Home Affairs goes back and looks at the recommendations made 10 years ago,” he noted, adding that while he is in agreement with the increase in the number of ranks, something must be done to inspire confidence, and attention must be paid to improving education in addition to salaries.The issue of an under strength Force dates back many years. In 2009 at an officers’ conference, then Commissioner of Police Henry Greene who is now deceased admitted that the Force had a severe personnel shortage of about 785 persons, or 20 per cent of establishment strength. As a result, Greene said, “Our office workers normally spend 50 per cent of their time in offices and 50 per cent of the time they spend on the streets.” Several years prior to these comments he said similarly that the force was stretched to the limit having almost “emptied its offices” to provide sufficient personnel to supplement street patrols during the Rio Group summit conference and Cricket World Cup competition.
The present Commissioner Seelall Persaud had also spoken of the issue.
The Force over the years has been criticized for its inability not only to attract numbers but to keep its ranks from leaving.