What are the rules for ‘stop and search’ by the po­lice?

Stabroek News Sunday - - REGIONAL NEWS -

Dear Editor, The re­port in Kai­eteur News of 23-11-18, ti­tled “More stop-and­search, po­lice pa­trols for Re­gion Two”, caught my at­ten­tion for two rea­sons. For one, the fact that the com­man­der of the GPF ‘G’ Di­vi­sion made a pre­sen­ta­tion on his Christ­mas polic­ing plan to re­gional civil so­ci­ety stake­hold­ers struck me as a wel­come act in po­lice/pub­lic re­la­tions. Should such pre­sen­ta­tions be a stan­dard pro­ce­dure for all po­lice di­vi­sions coun­try­wide, then full praise is due to the force.

But, se­condly, I took note of the in­ten­tion of the po­lice to in­crease “stop and search” op­er­a­tions to com­bat the ex­pected up­surge of crime over Christ­mas. Here is my con­cern. What are the rules of en­gage­ment in Guyana for po­lice “stop and search”?

Do the Guyana po­lice need to first have, as in Amer­ica, “rea­son­able sus­pi­cion that the in­di­vid­ual has com­mit­ted, is com­mit­ting, or is about to com­mit a crime?” If so, are the ranks of the po­lice force aware of the le­gal con­tours of such sus­pi­cion?

Even be­yond the crit­i­cal is­sue of rea­son­able sus­pi­cion, we ad­di­tion­ally have to un­der­stand what is the scope of po­lice power when they ac­tu­ally “stop and search” some­one. In Amer­i­can law (at least, in the­ory), when a po­lice rank has rea­son­able sus­pi­cion to stop some­one, it is only to ques­tion (not search) him or her as a first step. As a sec­ond step, how­ever, US po­lice are em­pow­ered to frisk that per­son only to the ex­tent nec­es­sary to en­sure the of­fi­cers’ own safety or that of nearby oth­ers.

Of course, there has been much abuse of these po­lice pow­ers in the US, with Blacks and Lati­nos bear­ing the brunt, de­spite clear rules on what is rea­son­able sus­pi­cion and when and how to con­duct a frisk. The whole ques­tion of “stop and frisk” has come un­der re­lent­less le­gal and po­lit­i­cal pres­sure that the New York po­lice have re­duced the prac­tice by 94% over the last sev­eral years.

The ques­tions then for our po­lice force are (i) is rea­son­able sus­pi­cion re­quired?, (ii) If so, how do the ranks op­er­a­tionalise it on the ground, and (iii) what is the scope of the search of per­sons, their be­long­ings, and their ve­hi­cles? Yours faith­fully, Sher­wood Lowe What are the rules for ‘stop and search’ by the po­lice?

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