Police to use less lethal weapons
-after parliament passes motion
By: Brushell Blackman
The Guyana Police Force may soon be gravitating to the use of less lethal weapons after a motion with a few amendments made by the government, was passed in the National Assembly last Thursday. The motion was moved by GAP/ROAR Parliamentarian Everall Franklin who argued to have ranks use weapons such as lasers, rubber bullets and pepper spray as far as possible, since the preferred weapons by ranks cause deaths which Franklin believes can be avoided in many instances.
He said that the motion is not looking to make weak, disarm or in any other way incapacitate the Guyana Police Force. Rather it will help the force to execute, serve and protect the Guyanese populace in a better way. He called for the intensification of hand-to-hand combat and psychological evaluation of all ranks carrying firearms.
In addition Franklin recommended that counselling be made mandatory for ranks who use force resulting in death and that the Guyana Police Force conducts a six-months marksmanship training for all ranks who are authorised to use firearms.
He said that the motion is designed to give the servicemen options in the course of their duties since life is sacred and it should be valued.
According to the MP, many persons treat with the death of a shadowy character as an issue of unimportance.
While he indicated that he was not condoning crime in anyway, Franklin said that he finds it inexcusable that the police will shoot someone to death for the theft of a bicycle. He said the same ranks will get the ire of the protagonist of such actions, when these same actions befall a family member or close friend.
Franklin stressed that it is the duty of the state to protect and preserve life, otherwise directed by a court for an offence that was committed by the individual.
In arguing the motion, Franklin said that in the absence of the requisite training, the application of force can result in the depravation of life, and this should be deemed as intentional.
He admitted that the position put forward by the motion may be difficult but it is necessary for the professional execution of duties by police ranks. He said that the Police Force will not relinquish any weapons in its armoury but they will have to use force only when it is absolutely required.
During his presentation to the National Assembly, a member of government side of the house interjected, asking how the government is going to pay for these additional weapons.
Rhetorically, Franklin asked how cheap or expensive is a human life and opined that it is with that in mind, the government should seek to give its ranks options to brute force which they often employ.
Franklin said in many instances when the police are attacked they never respond, but only cordon off the area and lock the station gates. He said that forced should be used where it is necessary, but not ‘Willy nilly’ as is the case currently.
Referring to a recent incident in Laing Avenue, Franklin asked what can be the excuse for the police shooting after a fleeing youth who posed no threat. At this point of his presentation the government side of the house took umbrage to those utterances and questioned if the Speaker witnessed what he was asserting. Responding, Franklin said that the public is always asked to assist the force in fighting crime and when the same public reports transgression by the Police Force, it is just waved away by those who clamour for the public assistance. He said many times ranks carry weapons that they can hardly operate. Amidst mutterings, Franklin said he is challenging the Police Force to present 10 ranks that can pass the basic marksmanship test. Responding to the motion, Agriculture Minister, Robert Persaud said that the government will have no difficulties in entertaining debate like the one that is being championed by Franklin, but there are many issues that must be taken into consideration. He said that ranks are operating in an evolving security setting and they should not be compromised or deterred in the execution of their duties. He said that the society can go through a very theoretical debate, talking about lethal against non lethal weapons. He argued that the local setting and the environment in which police ranks operate should not be down played. He said that with the February 23 jailbreak, crime has taken on a different dimension with the use of AK-47’s and other high powered weapons. Persaud said that Franklin in advancing the motion displayed some degree of ignorance, since he is unfamiliar with the some of the developments in the security sector. Persaud said that there is an ongoing initiative by government to look at new evolving techniques that will bring the force on par with other security services globally. Persaud said that the motion creates the impression that the non lethal measures are not an option for ranks. According to Persaud the tools at the disposal of the ranks include what one will consider non arsenal tools such as baton, tear gas, shot guns and rubber bullets. He said that at the Felix Austin Police College, ranks are trained in the use of a number of non lethal methods, so it is a deception by the motion to posit that non lethal weapons are not an option. He said that the administration does not require a motion to move in this direction since this has already started. Persaud cautioned that the impression must not be sent that ranks will be dealing soft or passively with criminal elements. He said that the message should not be sent to the criminal enterprise, that the police should exercise the type of conduct that will make them ineffective. It is to this end that he called for ranks to be given the moral and financial support by the relevant authorities. He said that law enforcement operatives should not be made wimps and send the wrong signal to elements in an ever changing national security setting. Also speaking on behalf of the government, was former Minister of Home Affairs, Gail Texieria.
She said that lethal force is a global right. She said that the use of force is dependent on the rank making an on-the-spot decision after being confronted with a situation. She said that a situation can change from normal to deadly in a matter of seconds for a rank, and these are some of the difficult issues that confront the security force.
Texieria said that the motion gives the impression that the Police Force is irresponsible, unprofessional and clueless in what they do. She said that such inference is far from the truth since training in less lethal weaponry are apart of police training from the inception. After heated debates the motion was passed with amendments made by the government and approved by the National Assembly minus the Peoples National Congress Reform (PNC/R).