Sys­temic vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion in the Po­lice Force

Stabroek News Sunday - - EDITORIAL -

This ar­ti­cle be­low was first pub­lished in June, 2014, in a dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal era. The re­cent shoot­ing by the po­lice of three men on the seawall demon­strates the con­tin­u­ing rel­e­vance of the is­sues dis­cussed at that time. I wrote as fol­lows: Vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion in the Po­lice Force can no longer be clas­si­fied as al­le­ga­tions. They are real and are now an in­te­gral part of the cul­ture of the Po­lice Force and polic­ing in Guyana. The sooner the author­i­ties ac­cept that these are chronic and sys­temic prob­lems in the Po­lice Force, the quicker there will be a se­ri­ous at­tempt at a so­lu­tion. No such at­tempt has yet taken place, even though mod­est ef­forts at ‘re­forms’ have been made. But these have been at­tempted only re­luc­tantly, af­ter much pub­lic pres­sure and as an at­tempt to soothe pub­lic opin­ion. When pub­lic rage over­flows, such as af­ter the shoot­ings in Mid­dle Street, the pub­lic is of­fered the cre­ation of a SWAT team. But the dan­ger now ex­ists that the Po­lice Force will be­come so en­meshed and so en­trenched in vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion, that sys­tems to pro­tect these will take on a life of their own within pro­gres­sively higher reaches of the Po­lice Force.

Let us be clear. The vast ma­jor­ity of of­fi­cers, and many of those lower down, are good, hon­est and ded­i­cated po­lice­men who are re­volted by ex­cesses. The Po­lice Force still at­tracts cadets of qual­ity who go on to be­come good po­lice­men. But sub­sist­ing right along­side this qual­ity is an es­tab­lished mind­set, which vi­o­lates the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of polic­ing and of moral­ity.

There is a cul­ture that ex­ists in polic­ing, as in many other pro­fes­sions, all over the world. It is a cul­ture that sees crime as the enemy and the al­leged crim­i­nals as the per­pe­tra­tor, de­fender and pro­tec­tor of what the po­lice­man is trained to pre­vent. Train­ing and strong hi­er­ar­chi­cal sys­tems in the past pre­vented the cul­ture of vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion from ex­plod­ing.

Since this cul­ture be­gan to es­ca­late in the early 1970s, po­lice vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion be­gan to es­ca­late and take root. At that time re­sources to the Po­lice Force be­gan to be pro­gres­sively re­duced, crime de­tec­tion de­clined which was di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for a cor­re­spond­ing in­crease in po­lice vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion. That is why the ar­gu­ment of some African rights ac­tivists that po­lice­men kill Black youth on be­half of an ‘In­dian’ gov­ern­ment is so much bull. The sys­tem­atic killing of Black youth started and grew into an es­tab­lished pat­tern when what some would de­scribe as an ‘African’ gov­ern­ment was in of­fice for 25 years.

In the early 1980s I was elected as a mem­ber of the Bar Coun­cil, which is the executive of the Guyana Bar As­so­ci­a­tion. I served on that body for 11 years, hold­ing var­i­ous executive po­si­tions. One of the dom­i­nant is­sues which en­gaged our at­ten­tion over the en­tire pe­riod was po­lice vi­o­lence against sus­pects, in­clud­ing shoot­ings. We cam­paigned hard against these atroc­i­ties and met more than one Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice on the is­sue.

The PPP lead­er­ship fully sup­ported the Guyana Bar As­so­ci­a­tion’s ac­tiv­i­ties on po­lice vi­o­lence and fre­quently is­sued state­ments con­demn­ing it. How­ever, as soon as the gov­ern­ment changed in 1992 the PPP fell silent on the mat­ter of po­lice vi­o­lence. It be­came im­pos­si­ble for an un­der­stand­ing of the rights of sus­pects to be in­jected into or to take root in the cul­ture of vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion. I know that ef­forts have been made but not con­sis­tently and pur­po­sively enough to make a dif­fer­ence.

The cur­rent Min­is­ter of Home Af­fairs does not seek to de­fend vi­o­lence or cor­rup­tion in the Po­lice Force. But the gov­ern­ment’s ef­forts at re­forms have been ten­ta­tive at best. The pub­licly known cor­rup­tion and episodes of

Tvi­o­lence sug­gest that no mea­sur­able suc­cess has been achieved in elim­i­nat­ing these scourges. This is not sur­pris­ing in the ab­sence of root and branch re­form of a struc­tural na­ture de­vised by se­ri­ous pro­fes­sion­als and the elim­i­na­tion of po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in the run­ning of the Po­lice Force. Just as much as there is a po­lice cul­ture, there is a po­lit­i­cal cul­ture. Po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence did not start with the PPP. It was de­vised and im­ple­mented by the PNC, which is re­spon­si­ble for the com­mence­ment and evo­lu­tion of what tran­spires in the Po­lice Force to­day.

There has been no known ev­i­dence that the PPP in­tends to break with the past and re­lin­quish its em­pha­sis on con­trol of the Po­lice Force. This was on pub­lic dis­play when the pre­vi­ous gov­ern­ment re­jected the Bri­tish pro­pos­als in about 2009, which were de­vised af­ter ex­ten­sive con­sul­ta­tions by a Com­mon­wealth ap­pointed team of se­cu­rity of­fi­cials ap­pointed by the Bri­tish. The pro­ject in­volved some mea­sure of ac­count­abil­ity to be as­sessed by Bri­tish po­lice of­fi­cials at­tached to the Po­lice Force. This and other mea­sures were re­jected by the Gov­ern­ment of Guyana as it would have un­der­mined po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in the Po­lice Force. Re­forms to the Po­lice Force and po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence in its busi­ness are like wa­ter and oil. They can­not mix. It is ei­ther one or the other. he pub­lic would like to see a dif­fer­ent kind of Po­lice Force. It would like to see one where cor­rup­tion and vi­o­lence are elim­i­nated and the rights of the cit­i­zens, whether sus­pect or vic­tim, are pro­tected. The pub­lic con­tin­ues to re­gard the po­lice sta­tion as the first stop when con­fronted with crime. Much of the Po­lice Force con­tinue to serve the Guyanese peo­ple with courage and suc­cess, as in the re­cent re­cov­ery of the stolen baby. They daily con­front dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals and lay their lives on the line, which they some­times lose. But the time for ac­tion on the con­tin­u­ing vi­o­lence and cor­rup­tion in its ranks has ar­rived. The time for ex­cuses is over.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Guyana

© PressReader. All rights reserved.