Open and shut case

A police officer, personally ‘investigating’ a robbery committed against a relative of his, goes outside of his jurisdiction, picks up an underage witness and removes him from his parent’s home without his parent’s permission, places a gun into his mouth and shoots him and yet this policeman has not been charged. Is there not something seriously wrong here? Isn’t this an open and shut case?

What on earth can the police be investigating all this time? Fifteen-year-old Alex Griffith lived to recount the horrific tale of how he was treated by an officer of the law, sworn to serve and protect the citizens of Guyana. And the officer he pinpoints as having committed the unimaginable act is no ordinary police constable, but a cadet officer who would have undergone specialized training through the Guyana Defence Force’s cadet officer training programme.

The first strike against this officer is the report that he ventured into investigating his relative’s complaint. As it is that allegation should have been reported to and dealt with by the officers assigned to the police station in that jurisdiction.

The second strike occurred when he and his ‘squad’ picked up an underage boy, who allegedly witnessed the crime. There are standard operating procedures for dealing with minors, none of which were observed. A minor should not be questioned by the police in the absence of an adult, even if that minor is a suspect in a crime. In this case, the 15-year-old was said to be a witness, yet he was treated in a way no criminal should be treated.

The third strike against this cadet officer occurred when he reportedly placed a gun into Alex Griffith’s mouth and pulled the trigger. There is a reasonable assumption when a trigger is pulled, once there is ammunition in a gun, that someone would be wounded or killed. The officer reportedly pulled the trigger not once, but twice. Alex Griffith recounted for this newspaper how the cadet officer emptied his gun of ammunition and then replaced a single bullet. Alex said he was then asked the question the officer felt he knew the answer to. When he did not get the answer he wanted, he reportedly put the gun in the 15-year-old’s mouth and pulled the trigger. Nothing happened. The question was asked again. Still, the young man said he did not know the robbers’ identities. He recounted how, Russian roulette style, the cadet officer put the gun back into his mouth and pulled the trigger. This time it went off and Alex Griffith was wounded. Bleeding, he was picked up and dropped off at the Georgetown Public Hospital by the bunch of callous policemen who had the cadet officer’s ‘back’ while he tortured a defenceless 15-year-old witness.

This incident occurred on the night of Wednesday, April 30. A week later, at the time of the writing of this column, the cadet officer who had been under close arrest had been released and there was no inkling of when charges would be laid against him and what those charges might be. This is preposterous. The police had enough information from the get go to start by bringing departmental charges against this cadet officer. He was operating outside of his mandate in a division he was not assigned to. He was carrying out a personal investigation, dressed in his uniform and using the resources of the Guyana Police Force. Such actions should result in immediate demotion.

Then there is the second part of it. It was known by the next day that the cadet officer and others removed the minor from his mother’s home without her permission in order to grill him in her absence. More departmental charges should be brought against the cadet officer as well as those who accompanied him. This should have taken two days as the most. How hard could it be to find them? He knew who he took with him.

Then there is the shooting. It occurred. Alex Griffith, up until two days ago, was lying on a hospital bed with a bullet wound in his mouth. He did not shoot himself. Days later, he was able to say exactly how he was shot, but there was evidence from the night it happened as to who shot him. There were also ways for the police to quickly gather evidence on this: a check of the cadet officer’s ammunition and a swab of his hand for gunpowder residue would have provided more than enough if perchance Alex Griffith was unable to speak or to identify who shot him.

The fact that these events occurred while the police force is attempting to burnish its bloodied and negative image is a huge setback for the organisation. They have occurred in a south Georgetown ward which is not far from (in distance) and is similar to (in demographics) to Albouystown where the police has launched its ‘impact’ project. What are the people of Albouystown to think? Why should they trust the police? And how must they and the rest of us interpret this marked recalcitrance by the police in bringing charges?

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