Time has come to expand resources of Police Complaints Authority
The recent excesses committed by members of the Guyana Police Force has brought the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) which is tasked with the responsibility of investigating criminal wrongdoings by members of the force under scrutiny. Recently, the chairman of the PCA, retired justice Cecil Kennard when asked if he had a chance to peruse the file of 15 year old Alex Griffith who was shot in the mouth said “After having concluded the Colwyn Harding matter I will then look at the file”(SN:2014-05-14).
The chairman’s response clearly shows that he is overwhelmed by the magnitude of investigating the multiple complaints lodged against rogue members of the force; this is not an attack on the competence of the chairman, as his legal accomplishment is well established, but it is against that backdrop that the time has come to expand the organisational structure of the PCA to better assist the chairman in carrying out his mandate. I suggest that the following measures be immediately implemented to make the PCA a more effective body:
-The establishment of a Legal and Complaints Unit which would be tasked with receiving and reviewing complaints, informing the complainants in writing what action would be taken with respect to the complaint lodged and to ensure that complaints are forwarded for investigation. This department must also be staffed with at least two attorneys, two complaints officers and an administrative assistant.
-The creation of an Investigative Unit which would be staffed with a team of experienced investigators. The responsibility of this unit is to conduct investigations with respect to the complaints received, which would include gathering evidence and carrying out interviews. Upon completion of investigations, the files will be sent to the Legal and Complaints Unit where the legal advisors will ensure that the files contain all information needed and that the evidence gathered is in keeping with the rules governing such.
The above mentioned suggestions would allow for the punctual and effective completion of investigations and for the rendering of transparent opinions based on the findings of the PCA. I am not aware if the PCA is a statutory body, but if it is not then parliament needs to move swiftly in giving the statutory mandate, clearly outlining its powers and functions. An annual budgetary allocation would be an imperative for the expanded PCA to effectively carry out its functions.
The PCA plays a very important role in holding members of the GPF accountable when they would have violated the human rights and civil liberties of citizens of this country and thus I support its continuous improvement to make it an institution that embodies the confidence of citizens as we seek to hold our uniformed forces to a high standard of professional behaviour.
Michael Baird Jr