Police ranks trained for new national emergency system

As government moves to merge 911, 912 and 913 into one emergency system, it has already trained police ranks and given the greenlight to a contract for the purchase of the necessary equipment, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said on Wednesday.

“We have already trained the officers to be taking the calls from wherever… we do not have a problem with the 912 [and] 913 surprisingly… but we do have one with 911. So we are going to merge the three into that new system and hopefully they are all going to work together,” he told reporters at his Brickdam office.

Ramjattan moments earlier had held a press conference to sensitise the public on the 41st anniversary of the Community Policing Organisation of Guyana.

When asked about the 911 system, Ramjattan said that Digicel won the contract for the installation of the necessary equipment at the Brickdam Police Station. “I think the arrangements have already been made with the PS [Permanent Secretary] for the monies to be given to them to get the equipment in,” he said.

That contract is worth $27.9 million and was given Cabinet’s no objection last month.

Ramjattan informed that the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company (GTT) also has to run a “distribution line into the police station. That is what the technical people have been telling me. We have to get some better transmission lines to where that piece of equipment would be brought in at Brickdam.”

He explained that previously there was a problem with the transmission line and the equipment.

Ramjattan expressed hope that the issues would be resolved when Digicel’s equipment is installed. It is unclear when this will be.

Minister of State Joseph Harmon, during a post-Cabinet press briefing on March 17, announced that Cabinet has given its no objection to the award of a $27.9 million contract to Digicel for the provision of a 911 business solution emergency service system for the Ministry of Public Security.

This development came months after the Private Sector Commission (PSC) and acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine expressed concern over the quality of the 911 service being provided by GTT.

Last October, the PSC voiced its concern that the emergency system, which is essential for any citizen who is under threat to be able to request a police response, is not functioning.

“People are dying, people are being hurt… The 911 system, in my view, is a national emergency and everybody from the President right down should not go to bed at night if this 911 system is not working a,” PSC executive member Captain Gerry Gouveia had told a press conference, where the less than satisfactory operation of the service was mentioned multiple times.

A 2014 review of the 911 system recommended a range of reforms to improve its efficiency but problems persisted.

Several days later, Ramnarine said that the service remained problematic and he expressed hope that the requisite attention would be given to fix it.

Ramnarine said he was aware that 911 had been experiencing problems over the past few years. He recalled that the previous government had a consultant from abroad and had also engaged stakeholders, including Digicel, GTT, senior officers from the Guyana Police Force and some other agencies, including members of the society who had deep concerns, and who still do, over the proper functioning of 911.

He said the problem persisted and under the proposal for the Safe City Smart Street project, there was to be an information command centre and the 911 system would again come under focus.

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