Police force’s strategic planners undergoing training

In keeping with recent recommendations made by UK security expert Lt. Col. (ret’d) Russell Combe, a two-week training course for the Guyana Police Force’s Strategic Planning Unit (SPU) opened yesterday.

“This training… is directly linked to the interim recommendations that Russ Combe, the [Security Sector Reform] Advisor to the President, has recently produced. It is part of a planned series of training activities which we are looking to conduct over the next few months,” British High Commissioner to Guyana Greg Quinn said during the opening ceremony, which was held at the Police Training Centre on Camp Street.

Two Suriname police force ranks are also partaking in the training course.

Seated, from second, at left, are British High Commissioner to Guyana Greg Quinn, Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine and UK security expert Lt Col (rtd) Russell Combe, with the two trainers and participants of the training course. Standing to the left are the two Suriname Police Force participants. (Photo courtesy of the British High Commission)

Quinn, delivering the feature address at the opening, said that on several previous occasions he had talked about the importance of ensuring that the work on security sector reform leads to concrete activity.  The UK’s intention, he stressed, was not and is not “to produce another worthy report which will sit on a shelf.”

Soon after entering office in 2015, President David Granger had revealed that government had approached the British to have the Security Sector Reform Action Plan (SSRAP), which was previously rejected by the former PPP/C government, back on the table in the wake of the country’s ongoing battle with crime. It was as a result of this that Combe was hired and travelled to Guyana to commence work on the programme. At the end of June, he presented an interim report. The final report is to be delivered at the end of the year.

Quinn told those gathered that this training course adds to the support given to other areas of the security sector – the Prison Service, the Guyana Defence Force and specialised agencies such as the Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU). “I hope this all demonstrates the ongoing commitment of the UK to improve the security sector here in Guyana. Today’s training is aimed at the Guyana Police Force Strategic Planning Unit.  It is designed to improve the capacity and capability of the Unit in the conduct of their duties.  It will, we expect, support the Unit as it seeks to improve the operational efficiency of the Police.  We also expect it to support and sustain relevant reform programmes (and the implementation of reform action plans) for security reform within the police,” he said.

Quinn added that it is also relevant to note that the SPU has a role in researching and confirming emerging trends in crimes pertaining to issues such as cyber-crime, piracy and social violence. Such work, he said, adds to the understanding of the threats which face the country and which need to be countered by the police.  These threats, he added, can then be factored into the strategic planning and implementation process. “Personally, I cannot stress enough how important strategic planning, forward thinking, and proper monitoring and evaluation is to any organisation. It is something that is central to the working of my own organisation. Fundamentally, if you don’t have an overall plan, and the ability to implement that plan, how can you really expect to change perceptions or ingrained methods of working? Or, indeed, address emerging threats,” he said.

He said that he sees the unit as being at the forefront of work to implement any recommendations to reform the police. “It is therefore vital that they have the training and resources to allow them to do this. I hope what we are launching today, in its own small way, helps in this regard,” he said.

Quinn informed that support to the unit is not only coming from the UK but also the US Embassy in Georgetown, which has been supporting and contributing to the work to build the skills and capacity of the unit through the provision of significant amounts of equipment.

He expressed hope that the course will be beneficial to the two Suriname ranks as their force has security sector issues to address.

‘A more cohesive narrative’

Meanwhile Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan called the training a “positive and concrete action” and said that he was particularly pleased that the strategic management of the force is the beneficiary.

He said that with all that has “hit” the media concerning the police force, especially its hierarchy within recent times, “there is need for strategic rethink but first that unit which provides the force’s strategies and policies and plans must benefit from training especially from …the UK, so I am very happy and grateful to the UK experts….”

He stressed that the police force needs an improved capacity and capability in the areas of professional strengthening and leadership, which will empower the force to initiate reforms and to strategically plan for the realisation of these objectives.

He said that these objectives, which are major, include the regionalisation of divisions rather than existing structure and better intelligence so that high risk criminals can be caught.

Ramjattan told the gathering that the result of training for the Unit would mean the establishment of the “stable, effective presence” of a sovereign governmental authority which will bring about the peace, stability and a good life that is desired. He said that such an enhancement from a strong, effective police force will “see a society not susceptible to exploitation by terrorists, thieves and tyrants. A stronger Strategic Planning Unit will certainly help up in articulating a more cohesive narrative out of the sometimes apparent ….disparate police concerns.”

Ramjattan also highlighted the inclusion of the two officers from the Suriname Police Force, which he said has been in deep collaboration with its counterpart here in areas which in some cases has seen positive results, including the capture of drug trafficker Barry Dataram and a reduction in piracy. “This kind of cooperation at the training level will certainly create the condition for closer contacts between our two police forces and countries,” he observed.

Acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine, also speaking at the launch, said policing is increasingly becoming an “onerous” profession. “It is not a job or an occupation, it is an onerous profession,” he noted, while pointing out that the experience and academic qualifications of ranks would help to buttress good and efficient reform of the force arising out of recommendations of the new security sector reform report.

He noted that the participants will be exposed to drafting, writing briefs, strategic planning versus strategic thinking, conducting research to support not only current security policies but to improve on existing policies and preparation of action plans. He said that the recommendations emanating from the Security Sector Reform report are intended to engage in and address the deficiencies and the manner in which the quality of services being dispensed to communities can be improved. “It is extremely opportune at this time and it is also extremely paramount,” he noted.

UK-based facilitators Paul Mathias and Andy Odell will be conducting the training course, with the former already having some work experience with the police here.

Quinn told the media last month that as a result of what is contained in Combe’s interim report, there are various training activities which would come on stream in the next few months and before the end of the year. He, however, did not provide specific details.

He had said that the report focuses on Combe’s initial findings on processes and procedures across the police force. “And so the training we are looking at …is gonna be focused on police but actually some of that would be of benefit more broadly, so we are looking at things like trying to work out  strategic policies within the police service, working on maritime capabilities,” he said.

Quinn had stated that there is nothing that Combe has found which has not been seen in any of the many other reports that have been done before. He had said that a lot of what was found so far centres on “making sure that the proper people are in the proper position with the proper skills, that promotion is based on merit, that accommodation in police stations are up to scratch, that a process for discipline, if needed, that it exists, standing orders exist.”

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