Just one week into the month of October, President David Granger while speaking to reporters at State House concerning the Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the alleged plot to assassinate the Head of State, put forward the view that it is important to ensure that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) can be trusted and is efficient in addressing crime.
For certain, public trust has always eluded the Guyana Police Force over the years, and this most recent Commission of Inquiry did nothing to enhance the public perception of the GPF, since its top brass came across as a fragmented group often working at cross purposes and with no clear direction. It brought into sharp focus the managerial mis-steps and institutional weaknesses that plague the Police Force that appeared symptomatic of the general malaise which it has been struggling with for too long.
About a month before the President spoke, Minister of Public Security Khemraj Ramjattan said that there was a need for strategic thinking within the GPF. His comment was made as officers embarked on two weeks of capacity building training in the area of strategic planning – courtesy of the British government. Two weeks later over fifty officers were slated to participate in a one-week Canadian Justice Education Society collaboration with the US Department of State’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs training course – part of the ‘Strengthening the Criminal Justice in Guyana’ project.
But in just the month of October alone, as criminal violence continues to spiral out of control, the GPF has been making the news oftentimes for seemingly all the wrong reasons. A 20-year-old police rank, assigned to the Tactical Services Unit, was charged and placed before the courts for allowing the escape from lawful custody of Melvor Jeffrey, a teenager shot by police and under police guard at the Georgetown Public Hospital, “through negligence or carelessness.”
Another police rank, Constable Kwesi Maloney, was remanded to prison on the charge of having in his possession a pistol, ammunition and spent shells while not being the holder of a firearm licence. A senior police officer, however, had a 9mm pistol and 50 matching rounds stolen from his home.
To briefly segue from the GPF to the Guyana Prison Service and the City Constabulary, we find that a prison officer, George Selman, was remanded to prison himself for the charge of assaulting a fellow prison officer after the prosecution painted him as a serial offender. While the police celebrated the recapture of escaped prisoner Royden Williams, the Guyana Prison Service continued to embarrass themselves by allowing a nude picture of the prisoner being processed by them to surface online. A City Constable of the Mayor & City Council Constabulary was reported to the Guyana Police for engaging in a sex act with a minor in proximity to the constabulary’s headquarters. This constable has since been fired by the M&CC but the matter continues to engage police and public attention.
Also in October the Minister of Public Security announced that the 911 emergency system would be back in operation by the month end, and that a large quantity of vehicles and other equipment necessary for law enforcement had arrived from China. The Minister felt comfortable enough about these developments to boast that, “when people now make a report, they are going to get answers” and “with all that hardware that is coming in you certainly will have a Christmas that is gonna be better than previous years.”
The Guyanese public can perhaps be forgiven if they did not break out into spontaneous cheering at the Minister’s bold new promise. It was also earlier in October that Minister Ramjattan bemoaned the indiscipline in the GPF after a string of incidents involving policemen at various levels created a series of unfavourable news reports in the media. An accused rapist escaped from the Lusignan Prison in full view of police ranks on guard there, a quantity of cocaine mysteriously vanished from the office of a senior police officer, the head of the local SWAT team of the GPF was stripped of his position after losing his firearm (and motor car) in a robbery ‒ these and other incidents caused the Minister to exclaim that the GPF was having a “very bad” month.
Minister Ramjattan is right: “discipline” is sadly lacking in the GPF and this is a “very bad” situation. Also, it remains to be seen whether an early Christmas delivery from China will lead to the kind of glorious month of December that he apparently envisages.