Sleeping on the job

Acting Commissioner of Police Leroy Brumell was sufficiently riled by the fact that two prisoners had escaped from the Leonora Police Station lockups on Sunday, while the two police officers were likely asleep that he publicly denounced it. It was, however, no shock to anyone that the woman police corporal and the male constable who were on duty that night “might have been asleep… when the men picked up their shoes [and] broke out of the lockups.”

Mr Brumell, who made the revelation during his address at the opening ceremony for the 22nd Junior Officers Course, departed from the Guyana Police Force’s usual close-mouthed front, when he stated that he did not believe the report on the escape which the two police officers proffered. They had claimed, he said, that the prisoners tore their charge-sheets out of the book before escaping. He said he believed the police officers tore out the charge-sheets themselves as cover, after they awoke and realized that the prisoners were missing.

Police officers sleeping on the job is nothing new. What is new is the official admission that it happens. The police have never admitted it before, but when one looks back at events, it’s the only explanation for some of the escapes that have occurred in the past, as well as instances where detainees were beaten or abused by other prisoners in the lockups, while the police claimed no knowledge of the incidents.

What emerges from the Leonora escape investigation would make interesting reading. Assuming that the lockups are secure and that the two escapees had no special powers that would have allowed them to slip through a keyhole or iron bars, the officers on duty would have had to have been in what is called a ‘dead’ sleep not to have heard them escaping. That is, of course, assuming that they were asleep inside the police station and not somewhere else.

After the 2002 jailbreak and the subsequent attacks on police stations, all police stations, particularly those in Georgetown, lock up at night. Gates are locked, sometimes padlocked, and the only police stations where you are certain to find a sentry at the gate are Eve Leary and Brickdam. So for instance, if a person is being chased by a criminal or someone with criminal intentions, he or she would be wise not to run to the gates of any other police station as he or she would be locked out and at the mercy of the pursuer. In fact, taking the Leonora Police Station incident into consideration, he or she could be killed, raped or abducted while the police remain blissfully in dreamland and unaware.

Persons who have complained about the police not answering telephone calls at night, particularly 911 calls, or being reluctant to leave the police station to visit a crime scene or make an arrest, have hinted at there being a possibility that the police were asleep. This has always been staunchly denied – until now.
One sincerely hopes that Mr Brumell’s openness heralds a different way of doing things and that at the end of the investigation, the officers, if found wanting, are suitably penalized so as to force others to wake up and do their jobs properly.

What passes for policing is in some instances so disgusting that one questions the quality of the training – such as the instant course named above. However, the caveat is that it is not just the quality of the training that has to be above par, but the quality of the persons being trained. The Guyana Police Force should take heed.

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