Are police officers afraid to act professionally?
By Dale Andrews
The subject of political interference in the workings of the Guyana Police Force has always been hot, with arguments escalating within the past few months.
While the politicians will deny that their influence is adversely affecting the integrity of the organization, officers of the Guyana Police Force have within recent times publicly highlighted this status quo, which dates back decades.
More recently, one outspoken police officer took on the administration and in a public pronouncement, which certainly caused some embarrassment, subtly accused Minister of Home Affairs Clement Rohee of directly interfering with the inner workings of the Force and by extension, undermining the professionalism of officers.
For his outspokenness, the officer, Assistant Commissioner David Ramnarine, has been summarily disciplined-banished to the Department of Development.
To say that the decision was not politically motivated would be denying one’s conscience, especially since the Home Affairs Minister had publicly declared that he had lost confidence in the officer and had requested the acting Police Commissioner, Leroy Brumell, to discipline Ramnarine.
To date, there has been no official hearing on the matter by either the Police Service Commission or the force administration, but Ramnarine is now experiencing the consequences of his public confrontation with the political oversight figure of the Guyana Police Force.
Political interference in the Guyana Police Force did not start with the present Minister nor is it confined to the Minister of Home Affairs.
Others in the political directorate outside of the Ministry have, in many instances, tried to influence the work of the police to their benefit or to the benefit of friends and family.
Ramnarine’s present dilemma is enough reason for other officers to throw away their professionalism and pander to the dictates of Political powers, knowing that to do otherwise will condemn them to a similar fate.
Remember what happened to Assistant Commissioners Paul Slowe and Steve Merai?
There are many instances that one can cite where police officers believe that they have to obey the dictates of the political directorate, even if it means foregoing their professionalism.
One that readily comes to mind occurred with the crime wave during the tenure of Minister Ronald Gajraj and Commissioner of Police (Ag) Floyd McDonald.
A group of reporters from this newspaper were in a white car that had passed the Carmichael Street entrance twice in less than an hour on their way to the St. Joseph Mercy Hospital to check on a reported shooting incident.
Those were the days of wanton murders, and four men of a certain ethnicity in one white car sent shivers down the spines of many city residents and the operatives of State House who were on edge were no different.
They contacted the police at Brickdam informing them of their suspicions.
Before long, the car and the driver were pulled in. When another Kaieteur News staff member went to the station to find out what had happened, he too was promptly detained.
Calls to the senior staff in the division went unanswered, prompting Senior officials from the newspaper to personally go to Brickdam to secure the release of the staff.
Although it was explained to the most senior police officer there that the car was the property of Kaieteur News and the detained men were indeed staff members, there was a definite reluctance to release them.
The operatives who were in the car explained to the police why they were in the vicinity of State House, but still the police did not budge. Instead they gave one of the most absurd excuses and kept the staff in custody overnight.
The conversation went something like this.
“Boy we get a call from State House and we can’t loose these men until we get instructions,” one officer said.
“But officer you are a professional officer and you have ascertained that the men in your custody are media operatives and are not criminals. Why can’t you make a decision to release them?”
“My hands are tied. Once State House call, we have to get instructions from them to release the men,” the officer repeated.
Another incident which occurred a few months back was captured by a Kaieteur News Senior Reporter. The reporter had stopped at a road block at Vigilance, East Coast, where the police had stopped a sports utility vehicle with three occupants inside.
One of the occupants proceeded to hurl abuses at the police, while telling them that he is a friend of the Home Affairs Minister.
The reporter upon hearing this intervened and dared the man to call the Minister, giving him the Minister’s cell phone number in the process.
The man did make the call and was clearly heard calling the Minister by his first name. But when the reporter shouted that he was at the scene, the man’s phone abruptly went dead. Whoever he was talking to apparently terminated the call upon hearing the reporter’s voice.
It could be safely assumed that had the reporter not been there, the police would have been given instructions to take a certain course of action. As it turned out, the man was arrested and made to face the court the following day.
Then there was the case of a Government Minister who intervened when the police arrested his son.
Former Police Commissioner Winston Felix threw in his lot when during the debate on this year’s budget; he accused the present Minister of Home Affairs of directly influencing the action of the police on Elections Day last November.
But it is not only the politicians who try to exert influence of the Force.
A member of the judiciary had also used his office to belittle a police rank who had detained a relative of his.
This was done with the support of former Commissioner of Police Henry Greene, who had the rank presented before the judicial officer where she was forced to apologise although she acted professionally.
With recent threats by the Minister of Home Affairs to get tough in his new five-year tenure, it will be no surprise if the move against Ramnarine will force other officers in the Guyana Police Force to cower in the face of improper political directives.
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