Commissioner of Police acted improperly in bus matter, many questions still unanswered

Dear Editor,

As the recent past Minister of Home Affairs I am appalled and shocked at the response from the Office of the Commissioner of Police (COP) in respect to the incident on March 22nd, 2018 at the Eastern end of the Berbice River Bridge involving a #45 minibus and its occupants.

The incident should be further probed by investigative journalists. There appears to be more in the mortar than on the pestle.

Kaieteur News attempted to investigate the incident but after a stinging rebuke from the Police they backed off.

Today is Playter tomorrow it will be others. The slide into cover-ups at the administrative level of the GPF must not be allowed to go unquestioned.

This situation assumes great importance in view of the fact that a new politically weighted Police Service Commission is now in place, leaving beyond the shadow of doubt, that our worst fears can become a reality.

My take on the incident and the consequences that flowed from it is as follows:

The COP claimed that the bus and its four occupants were dispatched by him on duties to Region 6.

In light of this admission, why did Ramnarine not call Alves, Commander ‘B’ Division and instruct that the Head of CID, Special Branch and Traffic be on the lookout for the minibus bearing a particular number plate, of a particular colour/colours and carrying four passengers, two civilians and two police ranks (names provided)?

My take is the COP is guilty of gross dereliction of duty having neglected his responsibility to pass instructions down the chain of command in accordance with the Stand-ing Orders of the GPF. He failed to act professionally thus placing in jeopardy and at risk the occupants of the bus.

Had a situation arisen placing in danger the lives of the four passengers Ramnarine would have been held personally responsible.

The incident at the bridge could have been avoided had the ranks at ‘B’ Division been alerted about the specifications of the bus, its occupants, its mission and its imminent arrival in the Station District.

As regards the hullabaloo over the Road Service Licence (RSL) and bus pass, my take is if there was a dispute over the RSL, Playter should have been alert enough to take a photo of what was shown to him or make a record of what was told to him about the RSL being left at the Brickdam Police Station.

As an experienced and smart policeman, Playter should have anticipated that the matter would not have ended there and then. The phone call alone should have put him on the alert even though he would have long ‘reprimanded and discharged’ the driver. Moreover, if there was no RSL at the time when it was requested, it was grossly unfair for the Traffic Chief acting as a ‘Johnny come lately’ to present the RSL and pass, post facto at the time of when the confrontation was held and to embarrass Playter and as a justification for a traffic violation.

 This is totally unprofessional and smacks of administrative complicity at covering up for a traffic violation.

Next came the admonition to Playter from one of the passengers to the effect that ‘your boss wants to talk to you’

My take here is: Who is this ‘boss?’ Was it Ramjattan, Ramnarine, Hicken, Alves or the Traffic Chief ?

Which one of the four passengers made the call to the ‘boss’ and invited Playter to answer the phone? Is this the way persons unknown to a law enforcement officer expect to get away with a traffic violation?

From Ramnarine’s admission it appears that he was the boss and sought to intervene by way of a phone call in a police operation when he has no authority to do so.

Since the call was made to Force Headquarters, the Commissioner should have passed the matter to AC ‘Ops’ to take action. Hicken should then have gotten on to Alves to deal with the matter at a divisional level.

It is apposite to recall that a similar occurrence surfaced at the Commission of Inquiry into a death threat to the President.

It now seems where phone calls from civilians to the COP and vice versa are concerned what’s good for the goose is not good for the gander.

In this particular instance however, why such an every-day occurrence reached the level of the Commissioner is a clear indication that the bus and its occupants were either on a secret mission or a political mission known only to Ramnarine.

The fact that he did not find it fit nor proper to alert any other senior rank at ‘B’ Division about the details of the bus and its passengers attest to the lack of professionalism by Ramnarine.

Playter has been a Station Sergeant for a number of years and a Court Prosecutor for almost 16 years. This is an indication that the Force had confidence in him and recognized his competence as a Court Prosecutor.

Suddenly, when Ramnarine’s gigantic ego was bruised and a seemingly clandestine police/civilian operation was botched because a lower level rank was just doing his duty all hell broke loose.

Had KN not exposed this grave injustice the matter would have passed like so many others meted out to junior ranks of the GPF. To claim that the punishment meted out to Playter, by way of a transfer from one Division to another is a mere administrative matter is to mislead and downplay the vindictiveness of Ramnarine’s action.

Transferring or posting of ranks in a police division or out of a police division, albeit of a routine nature, is considered both ‘administrative’ and ‘operational’ by Force Headquarters. Therefore, for the Commissioner to claim that his action was purely administrative is to tell a half truth which is worse than telling a lie.

A key question to this storm in a teacup which spilt over into the public domain is; who were the two civilians and why were the two police ranks in ‘civvies?’ at the time especially in light of the fact that they were on official duties under specific instructions by the COP.

These are important questions that the  Commissioner needs to come clean with, lest media speculation forces him to explain the secrecy and the mystery of the number 45 minibus and its four unidentifiable passengers seated at the time in the bus at the Eastern end of the Berbice River Bridge where on a Thursday mid-morning, drama and injustice morphed into fact and fiction at one and the same time.

Yours faithfully,

Clement Rohee

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