Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee on Monday dismissed recent criticisms by opposition leader David Granger of the plans to set up a police Special Weapons And Tactics (SWAT) unit as contradictory.
“I don’t see how a SWAT team would take away anything from a modern Guyana Police Force,” Rohee told reporters at a PPP press conference at Freedom House, where he pointed out that for APNU to discount the usefulness of a SWAT unit was out of line with its call for a more resourced and better trained police force.
Rohee stated that for Granger and former Police Commissioner Winston Felix, who is now an APNU MP, to publicly state that the SWAT unit was an unnecessary addition to the force was confounding. He said that for years there were discussions in relation to setting up a SWAT unit and that the timing was now deemed appropriate.
Rohee called APNU’s stance on SWAT contradictory in nature, however he did little to justify the decision to set up the new unit when asked by reporters.
Granger has told Stabroek News that the administration has been unable to provide reasonable justification for the establishment of a SWAT unit, while noting that the opposition has been left out of any discussions on the initiative.
Granger had told Stabroek News that prior to a SWAT unit being set up, an analysis of the types of crimes that were prevalent in Guyana’s had to be conducted. He had noted that at this particular time establishing a SWAT unit was not a priority for the force, while observing that it would do very little to curb the major security threats in Guyana, including narcotics trafficking and money laundering.
Granger also noted the country’s painful experience with “special units,” saying care must be exercised in their creation because of the tendency for political interference and because of the tendency of the police administration to send low performing policemen to these units. He also warned of potential corruption—a concern that Rohee acknowledged on Monday but he said “when we come to that bridge we will cross.”
Rohee noted that it was important in the unit’s establishment that Guyana proceed along the path of “convention and orthodoxy.” He admitted that he was not sure about the manpower but noted that the all members of the unit would hail from the Guyana Police Force.
Answering various criticisms, Rohee noted that “the core had to come from within the ranks of the police force.” He added that criticism was bound to happen and that he could only imagine what public scrutiny would have been if the core of the unit was recruited from the civilian population.
Rohee stated that it was the police force that would ultimately be the authority of the SWAT unit so it only made sense that police officers would form the core. Reporters did question just how many officers would be recruited, but Rohee did not divulge any further information.
Following an announcement in October of last year of plans to establish a SWAT unit, the Home Affairs Ministry recently disclosed that a $163 million contract was signed with an American-based firm, The Emergence Group (TEG).