The police have a lot of work to do to change their tainted image

Dear Editor,

The use of verbal attacks and excessive force by members of the police force are forms of brutality directed against some members of the Guyanese society, particularly young black males.

The officers of the Guyana Police force have been entrusted with powers greater than those of the average citizen. They have the power to arrest, seize property and even use deadly force. Many of them from time to time have been accused of abusing those powers and when it is proven that they did, the officers are often not fired or prosecuted. In most of these cases sadly, they are either transferred to another division or sometimes suspended as a means of appeasing the public for the time being. Undoubtedly, these minor punishments for such unjustifiable crimes are by no means a deterrent to prevent them from recurring.

There is sufficient evidence that police officers act and behave as though they are above the law, and they abuse their powers as they wish without fear of being reprimanded or disciplined. Our society is at real risk, and the safety of the citizens is in jeopardy, because the very people entrusted with the responsibility to protect them are the perpetrators of wrongful acts.

The criminal acts carried out by some law enforcers are characterized as “police misconduct”; the beating of a young boy and his mother in the hinterland community with a branch while being videoed, the shooting of three protesters in Linden in 2012, the burning of a young man’s genitals, the shooting of fifteen-year-old Alex Griffith in his mouth while playing Russian roulette with his life. This ‘misconducts’ also includes the alleged sexual abuse of Colwyn Harding. There is also the profiling of men with dreadlocks in public transportation as drug dealers, while a car with four black men is more likely to be stopped and checked. The driver of an expensive vehicle is a considered a target for a potential bribe, if not false arrest. These forms of police brutality are mainly directed towards the vulnerable groups in our society – the poor and the weak.

With the presumed new leadership at the head of the force and various departments and divisions, the prospects for change still remain uncertain.

Why should one have to write in order to see the Commissioner of Police (ag), when he told the nation he has an open door policy? Were his utterances mere rhetoric?

With the constant increase in crime in our society, the Guyana Police Force has a lot of work to do, not just in retraining and re-educating its members so they would be more knowledgeable about the laws and the constitutional rights of the people they are mandated to protect and serve, but also to change its tainted image.

The members of the force, especially the outpost/station police and traffic officers, have to be more respectful and chivalrous to citizens when exercising their duties if they are really serious about rebuilding the lost trust and confidence between the police and citizens.

 Yours faithfully,

Jermaine Figueira

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