Saying that she was dissatisfied with the performance of the city constabulary, Georgetown Mayor Patricia Chase-Green yesterday declared that a reshuffling may be needed and warned Chief Constable Andrew Foo that he needs to do better.
“…The Chief Constable must understand that he is the chief police for the city…and he needs to be more proactive. He has to be more on the ball. He can’t wait for when things happen, two months after, then it is brought to this council; three months after it is taken to the legal affairs committee. He has to do better than that. He has to do better than that…I’m saying, the Chief Constable must take the flack for all that is happening here. And from the investigations department right through—everybody needs reshuffling. And Chief Constable I’m saying to you, if you have to have help from the national police or the Guyana Defence Force, wherever, you have to have people seconded here to straighten out the constabulary department, you must do it. We must do it, because I am not satisfied with the way the city constabulary is being run right now, I am not satisfied,” Chase-Green said during yesterday’s statutory meeting at the City Hall.
“…Because nobody is attacking the Chief Constable for what is happening at the City Constabulary. They’re attacking me. They’re attacking the Town Clerk. Everything goes to the Town Clerk or Pat—Pat and Roy, Pat and Roy. Nobody is saying anything about Andrew. Andrew is not a part of this family. I don’t know if he’s a step-child, but he’s the main man in this family. And Andrew must be held accountable for all his errors,” Chase-Green opined.
Chase-Green made reference to two of the most recent cases involving the constabulary to be highlighted in the media—one involving an alleged sexual assault on a 15-year old by a city constabulary officer, and the other, a stabbing incident, where city police reportedly had an altercation with a bicyclist, who was stabbed several times as a result.
The Mayor stated that there were many “loopholes” in the handling of the sexual assault case and as a result she added that the internal investigations must continue to identify all shortcomings. She stated that that all reports that were expected to be submitted at the last committee meeting should be sent to the Legal Affairs Committee so recommendations can be made.
During the statutory meeting, the handling of the investigations proved to be a point of contention.
Tempers flared after a statement by Town Clerk Royston King implied that a delay in investigations of the alleged assault was the fault of the Legal Affairs Committee that is headed by Councillor Sherod Duncan.
Duncan would point out to the committee that King had known about the event in question for weeks before it was brought to the committee’s attention, and then, when a request was made for a statement from the Town Clerk’s Office, King would fail to deliver.
King stated that Duncan had missed what he was trying to get at in his statement, and assured the committee that he had not in fact been blaming anyone. Instead, he had merely been reporting the actions taken by him in his capacity as Clerk of the Constabulary.
In his statement, King, acknowledging that the matter was one of a criminal nature that would “ordinarily” fall within the jurisdiction of the Guyana Police Force, stated that the committee was “permitted to embark on a fact finding mission to determine and establish the legitimacy of the allegations.”
“…The seriousness thereof, warranted that the matter be handed over to the Guyana Police Force as soon as possible so that it could be properly dealt with according to the laws of Guyana and that the good image of the Mayor and City Council would not be called into disrepute. The approximately one month period in which the committee was seized with the matter, without a final report of recommendation, could have possibly subjected the council to an allegation of interference with the administration of justice or particularly, in the circumstances where the welfare of a child who was involved…,” King had read.
He said that it was based on this that he decided to hand the matter over to the police force, which he did in a letter, dated October 17, to the Commander of the ‘A’ Division Marlon Chapman.
“In the case of the dismissal of the two officers, I exercised powers under section 77 of the Act in the matter to preserve the good name and image of this council and to prevent this honourable house from any allegation of interference in the administration of justice and attempts to cover up an act of an alleged criminal nature with a member of the constabulary,” King added.
He spoke of how the city police had a duty to uphold the law and maintain the “image and integrity of the council.” He noted that he also wrote to acting Commissioner of Police David Ramnarine to assist with capacity building within the constabulary, through training of ranks, secondment of officers from the police force, and increased levels of interaction between the two entities. Two members of the Constabulary reportedly started on an investigative course yesterday.
Duncan took umbrage to the statement made by King, saying that it was “not a true reflection of what transpired in the committee.” He pointed out that King had known about the alleged assault since around August 22nd to August 23rd, when the event reportedly took place, while the committee had not known about it until September 13th.
Furthermore, he disputed the circumstances under which the committee was asked to look into the matter.
“When this matter came before the committee, Madam Mayor, it was not to pronounce on the alleged incident involving the juvenile, the accuser and the alleged perpetrator,” he said, while noting that it had been recommended that the implicated rank be brought before committee to answer for his conduct.
Duncan said it is based on this that the committee began its work and was in the process of completing its investigations when they were “blindsided” by the actions of the Town Clerk, who dismissed the employees in the case and referred it to the police.
“When the committee met on the 13th, there were several outstanding issues, I think we pointed out 12 or 13 issues that we needed clarification on that took us almost to the end of September to get the information. When we got the information at the end of September, we realised that, in addition to other things, there were at least 5 other persons who were supposed to be on duty because they had signed the roster…the time sheet or whatever, and we had asked for those persons to submit reports to the committee, we have not seen them yet,” Duncan related.
“And it is in the height of all of that—and ongoing investigation—that I would see in the newspaper—as a matter of fact, I got a letter at my home stating that the accused, the accuser and somebody else was dismissed. That was what we were bullied with. And then we have said…we have said to you repeatedly that nothing precluded the Town Clerk, the city constabulary, or even the victim’s parents from taking this matter externally. So, to say the committee was slothful in doing its work is unfair criticism when the very committee, again, asked the Town Clerk for a report and we are yet to receive it,” he added.
“…But the Town Clerk is going to sit here and tell us it’s the committee that is slothful in coming to a conclusion in the matter and that is why he has had to submit the matter. Not even the common courtesy to let the chairman of the committee know what his intentions were to dismiss the officers from the employ,” Duncan stated further.
“…In my statement I blamed no one, neither the committee nor any individual councillor…I blame no one,” King countered following Duncan’s address. “…The approximate one month I mentioned in my report was for mere reference to show why I took the action I took,” he added.
On the matter of a statement being submitted by the Town Clerk’s Office, the atmosphere would become increasingly charged and Chase-Green would eventually resort to using her gavel to bring order to the room.
King appeared not to see the value in submitting a statement in the matter, and he downplayed his involvement, despite reports that the victim had had to recount the experience to him in the presence of various council officers.
“The juvenile was neither interviewed nor interrogated by me and therefore there is no need for a statement,” King told Duncan.
“After I was informed by the Chief Constable, the juvenile was sent to my office for me to see the individual. I asked him his name and I asked him his age. In any case, even if that were the case, the agency responsible for investigating the matter was and is the city constabulary along with the committee…So I don’t know what this question about statement is coming from the Town Clerk’s office. The Town Clerk is not pursuing the matter. Town Clerk is not prosecuting the matter,” King told the council.
“Madam, on a point of order. The reports are very clear that were made. Unless the Town Clerk is telling us everybody else who was in the office at the meeting said something and he said nothing, he asked no questions, or he refutes the report entirely—no meeting took place in his office while he was there. Unless he is refuting that report in full council, he is refuting that meeting took place because there are reports that the meeting happened in the Town Clerk’s office and that questions were asked…,” Duncan said.
King, in answer, said the Human Resource Manager and “Sherry” were present when they had the meeting and the child was sent to his office.
“And I am saying—me asking the young man his name and his age is different from an interview and an interrogation. That’s the point I’m making…the problem we have is that we are accustomed to casting blame and pointing fingers. I am not doing that, the time for that has passed…,” said King.
“If we are to get a true picture of what transpired, what was said, what we want to determine is what led to the apprehension of the young man or the circumstances surrounding his detention here and while he was in the Town Clerk’s office, he was still in detention. All the matter is concerning his detention and his release. And if the Town Clerk as the senior officer in the city council is saying he will not submit a statement to the committee on what transpired in his office with the young man, there that is an indictable statement Madam Mayor,” Duncan argued.
“What is the relevance of…a statement coming from the house of the Town Clerk saying that the Town Clerk asked the man’s name and his age? What is the relevance of that statement to any proper investigation? What is the relevance of that statement? Let us stop clutching at straws,” King countered.
Duncan again made reference to reports that the victim was called to the Town Clerk’s office and proceeded to recall what was said, but was cut off by King, who, now competing with other raised voices in the room, firmly stated: “But you were not there. You were not there. You were not there. So, you can’t know what happened in my office because you were not there.”
But Duncan got support from at least two other councillors, who noted that if King can make an oral statement on the matter, then a written one should be no issue. “I don’t even want to get into this but even in the level of investigation there were lots of lapses. And that is why I said that the whole entire downstairs must be, should be reshuffled. And so this afternoon we are not going to fact-find. The committee was given the okay to continue its work, the committee will continue its work,” Chase-Green added.
“Councillor Bishram Kuppen was one who also was saying let us call in the police but what do you have to say to the police? A set of incomplete statements. One man says there was nobody on duty, another one…say there were five other persons on duty. But for some reason or the other those persons were not mentioned…and the matter would not have even reached to the legal affairs committee had I not raised it here after it was raised in the Kaieteur News. And so, let us be honest and fair to everybody…,” she further said.
Chase-Green, addressing the council afterward, said that the committee will be allowed to continue its work, and asked that its member do their best to move forward on the issue.
“The committee still continues its work and the committee still has a request before the Town Clerk. He could either agree or disagree. But in the best interest of moving forward, he has to know what he should do. I won’t tell him what to do,” she added.