Service heads back security reform plans

The heads of the police force, and the fire and prison services have sounded their support for government’s announced reform strategy for the security sector, saying they must be modernised in order to be effective.

A Government Information Agency (GINA) report quotes acting Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell as saying that this year focus will be on both local and overseas training for police ranks to complement reforms that are underway. This will also entail police bridging the gap with the public, which the acting commissioner said will result in a significant reduction in criminal practices.

Director of Prisons Dale Erskine, Police Commissioner (ag) Leroy Brumell and Chief Fire Officer Marlon Gentle (Government Information Agency photograph)
Director of Prisons Dale Erskine, Police Commissioner (ag) Leroy Brumell and Chief Fire Officer Marlon Gentle (Government Information Agency photograph)

GINA noted that the reform plan for the Guyana Police Force, outlined in the Capita Symonds Report, is expected to cost $35M. The report has outlined a number of changes that must be made in the operations of the force in order for it to effectively meet the needs of a modern society. These include operations and procedure, development and partnerships, performance and infrastructure, GINA said.

GINA added that the reform process started over the last five years through the Citizen’s Security Programme (CSP), which was funded by the Government of Guyana in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). It saw several police stations refurbished and computerised to aid crime fighting.

Director of Prisons Dale Erskine said over the years there have been calls for prison reform and in 2001 the first strategic plan for the prisons was unveiled. He added that the Prison Service has to be far more corrective in nature.

The needs of the prisons were also examined under the Justice Sector Reform Strategy. However, in 2009, a more comprehensive plan was rolled out, which saw significant restructuring and overall modernisation of many aspects of the prisons’ operations. These included the modernisation of the prison system, legislation, development of the human resource capacity, introduction of prison enterprises, devising rehabilitative programmes to aid in the process of reformation and re-integration of prisoners, improved healthcare system, and greater collaboration with civil society.

According to GINA, today prisons have greater civilian oversight with the establishment of the Sentence Management, Agriculture, and Recruitment and Training boards, as well as the Prison Visiting Committees. “These bodies are all led by prominent persons in society, who are better equipped to bring a balance and a more comprehensive perspective on how to move the prison service forward,” it said.

Last year, a new facility was established at the New Amsterdam Prison to house prisoners who are segregated by offence. A similar facility is being built at the Georgetown prison to help monitor and control prisoners. Plans are also in train for a complete overhaul of the Lusignan Prison in 2014. The infrastructural aspect of this project has already started, GINA added, noting that the reform process for the prison service will cost $831M.

Meanwhile, addressing the Guyana Fire Service (GFS), GINA said it recognised the need for reform and embarked on a strategic plan to upgrade in 2007.

“This plan concluded in 2012, addressing issues such as: increasing the number of stations, modernising tools and equipment, and enhancing the communication network and human resource base,” GINA said. Today, the GFS boasts 15 fire stations with another one to be added at Diamond.

“We have invested a lot in acquiring modernised equipment, fire tenders, protective gear and hoses… development have a direct impact on the Fire Service and we have to think ahead and anticipate future development trends so that we can keep up. We have to constantly overhaul our methods of operations,” Chief Fire Officer Marlon Gentle was quoted as saying.

He also noted that the service is also embracing new technologies to boost its overall capacity and this has increased the need for more highly skilled human resources.

The GFS is to be renamed the Guyana Fire and Rescue Service and Gentle said that “our functions and responsibilities are more pronounced now with the name change of the Service.”

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