The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) may get an additional seven investigators later this year through an Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)-funded project, according to Chairman retired Justice Cecil Kennard, who says this year would also see more outreaches and the establishment of regional offices.
Speaking to Sunday Stabroek recently at his office, Kennard said the additional investigators will increase the current complement to 11, which would be welcomed given the PCA’s increasing workload. He noted that 13 applicants for the post of investigator were interviewed a week ago and it was recommended that seven be hired.
He said the four investigators currently attached to the PCA managed to expedite most of the 840 cases brought before it; 241 of those cases were walk-ins, while the remaining 599 came from the Guyana Police Force’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR).
Since the start of this year, 12 complaints have been lodged with the PCA. The total number of complaints received last year represent an increase. In 2015, 294 complaints were made by citizens directly to the PCA and 358 more came from the OPR. Additionally, four cases were received from the police force’s Criminal Investigation Department (CID).
Kennard described 2016 as a successful year for the PCA. Reviewing the year, he said that April, May, September and October saw a high number of walk-in complaints being made. Of the total walk-in complaints, 69 have been closed and 39 have been rejected. He explained that Neglect of Duty topped the list of complaints at 79. There were only three cases of officers involved in corrupt transactions but Kennard insists that the practice is rampant and members of the public may be afraid to come forward.
He informed this newspaper that most of the matters from the OPR were disciplinary, with seven being unlawful killings. He said his officers managed to tackle the 599 referred cases since they worked with a priority list, with the most serious offences being handled first. A number of minor matters remain.
Kennard expressed worry at the police’s practice of detaining persons beyond the 72-hour maximum period for which they can be held without charge and the detention of persons over the weekend. He reminded that if police require more time to detain a person beyond the 72 hours to complete an investigation, an application can be made to the High Court for an additional 72 hours. He said he has discussed this issue with the police commissioner and he had noticed a decrease in such occurrences.
Meanwhile, Kennard said in 2016, four outreaches were conducted in Essequibo (April), Lethem (September), Bartica (October) and Linden (November). During each of those visits, he said, he had one-on-one discussions with the police on the role and function of the PCA and matters of concern as detailed by the public. He said he also interacted with the public and took details of their complaints. He added that one of the areas he badly wants to visit is Kwakwani. He is contemplating a weekend visit to that area this year.
Also in 2016, Kennard conducted several lecturers at the Police Training College and posters were put on prominent buildings publicizing the PCA. He said that extensive work was done in 2016 and in a few weeks he will visit New Amsterdam, Lethem and Essequibo. He said that for 2017, his goal is to visit every region.
With regard to the decentralization of the PCA’s operations, he said that the 2004 Discipline Forces Commission report had recommended that his office be decentralized so as to have a wide reach. Noting that this was a good idea, he said, he had discussed it with the previous minister and he found favour with it. The current Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan, he said, had adopted a similar position and he hopes that it will become a reality in 2017. He said that a PCA office in each region would reduce transportation costs for persons living in far flung areas. He said that even though persons can make a complaint via the telephone, they would still have to visit and give a statement in person to investigators, which would require travel to Georgetown.
The PCA operates in a building which also houses several offices, including that of the Guyana Bar Association, as well as the Land Court. Asked about the accommodations, Kennard said that they are still being looked at. He said that once more investigators are hired, efforts will have to be made by the Ministry of Public Security to secure additional space.
According to Kennard, the completion of the new building in the Supreme Court compound could bring some relief as from his understanding the Land Court will be moved there and possibly the Guyana Bar Association’s office. He said that if this was so, then it will create an opportunity for the PCA to be expanded.
He reminded that the space occupied by the Bar Association once belonged to the PCA but his predecessor allowed it to occupy that space. Kennard assumed chairmanship of PCA in 2002.
Money has been allocated in this year’s budget for the PCA and the Chairman expressed hope that a vehicle will be bought soon. The PCA does not have a vehicle of its own.
It is the right of any aggrieved citizen who wishes to make a complaint against a member of the police force to do so to the PCA, which can be reached on telephone numbers 226-2095 or 226-1399