President Donald Ramotar yesterday unveiled a 15-point plan to win public confidence and improve the overall crime fighting capability of the police force.
Two months before general elections, Ramotar announced the “15 in 2015” plan while delivering the feature address to ranks at the opening ceremony of the Police Officers’ Annual Conference, where he also expressed concern that local police command the least amount of public trust in the Americas. He urged the police to pull out all the stops to ensure this is corrected.
“This perception is not acceptable to me, nor any Guyanese and should not be acceptable to any of you today and we must take steps to change these perceptions but before any steps forward can occur there must be a desire to move forward and I challenge each of you to find that desire,” said Ramotar, who is up for re-election where the government’s poor public security record is expected to be one of the main issues for debate.
He was referring to findings of a Latin American Public Opinon Project (LAPOP) survey which found that Guyana has the lowest level of trust in the police in the region. He noted that the survey found that between 2012 and 2014, the Guyanese public’s trust in the force decreased by 10 points on a 0-100 scale from 45.8% to 35.4%. “This is a worrying finding and during your deliberations at this conference I expect that you will discuss the perceived decrease in trust, what may have fueled such views and what can be done to turn this decrease in trust to an increase in confidence by the citizens,” he said.
“We may have views of the survey, its methodology and its analysis. The reality is that LAPOP has published its findings and these have been widely disseminated and therefore must be addressed objectively,” Ramotar also said.
He later urged the leaders in the force to be an example to the ranks below them.
In addition to good leadership, he said getting rid of corrupt cops and forging a better relationship with the public are among the important issues that need to be addressed if a turnaround is to be seen.
He made mention of those ranks who sully the reputation of the force by engaging in wrongdoing and urged that they be gotten rid of. “I am aware that while the majority of officers and ranks are committed, patriotic servicemen and woman… there is a minority, the few rotten oranges, that could spoil the whole basket. I expect you to exercise zero tolerance in identifying the corrupt, social deviants… who have infiltrated your ranks,” he stressed, while noting that a police officer cannot be “a walking contradiction.”
In addition to high profile cases of police excesses, the force has come in for scrutiny and criticism recently after the promotion of two policemen who tortured a 15-year-old boy who was in custody in 2009.
Ramotar said every officer should be wearing visible identification to “ensure accountability for his or his actions” and added that whether the police is effective or not is not measured in the number of arrests but on the lack of crime.
Noting that trust and accountability are paramount in a respected force, he said that sticking to the “Peelian principles” (named for a former British Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel) of policing is prerequisite for the force to get to the point that it desires to be.
He stressed the importance of a strong and professional force to also maintain social order, to act as a visible deterrent to crime and disorder as well as the need to lay out the reform necessary to bring the force in line with the needs of all Guyanese.
He said that his vision for the force is one that not only meets the needs of citizens but also sets the standards that other nations would wish to follow. “It is time for Guyana to stop wishing to be like other countries and to create a country that others would want to emulate,” he said.
“15 in 2015”
The president, during his address, detailed the “15 in 2015” plan that is designed to restore confidence in the police. He called it the next step in the journey to bring greater “security, safety and stability to Guyana” and noted that he was committed “to seeing it becomes reality.”
The plan entails:
- Establishment of neighbourhood watch programmes to increase surveillance by residents and community members
- Introduction of a problem oriented approach to solving crime, which will involve identifying and responding to problems in communities
- Increase the number of police ranks on the streets and in communities
- Address the emergency 911 call system to turn it into a true rapid response system
- Improve the rapid response time to crimes, which is currently the worst in the region
- Establish directed patrols with the advent of computerised crime analysis
- Establish a proactive arrest model
- More covert patrols and more aggressive traffic law enforcement
- More interactive sessions with schools to reduce violence and crimes
- Establish drugs and wea-pons free zones, such as near schools
- Reopening of cold-case files to solve unresolved crimes
- Establishment of targeted policing programmes to boost confidence in sectors such as tourism, agriculture, construction, commerce and transport
- Expansion of police youth clubs and mentorship programmes
- Establish nuisance abatement programmes to curb issues such as noise nuisances
Expand the force’s intelligence ability to achieve greater focus on the critical crime targets, such as gangs, trafficking syndicates, groups at risk and crime hot spots
- Ramotar also spoke of the government’s provision of resources to the force, including training and capacity building to deal with transnational crime and criminal syndicates. “Much of what is required is being provided and in the context of the Guyana Police Force Strategic Reform process,” he said, before adding that he can point to major capital projects, such as the Forensic Lab and the police floating base, that have been completed. He also said additional vehicles have been given to the SWAT unit and the force has been provided with more boats, information technology and enhanced real time communication systems.
He said too that government has refurbished police stations and training institutions, while allocating a substantial increase in the strength of the officers and ranks. These, according to him, are all evidence of growth and steps taken to build a better force. The government has given a lot to the force and “much is expected in return,” he noted.
This year, the three-day conference is being held under the theme “Providing effective security through partnership, enhanced public trust and capacity building,” at the Police Officers’ Mess Annex, Eve Leary.
Newly-confirmed Police Commis-sioner Seelall Persaud said during the conference there will be a review of the projects undertaken last year to ascertain the positive as well as the necessary improvements needed. Plans for 2015 will be presented, he added.
According to the Commissioner, the force recognises the high demand being placed on it to provide security during the upcoming elections period. This, he said, is being addressed at the level of the Joint Services, which has resulted in unprecedented inter-agency collaboration. “We intend to deliver adequate security for the conduct … the current campaign period, elections itself and the aftermath of elections day,” he assured.