The police are in the news for the wrong reasons
There is a lot happening these days. People are desperate to get things done in a hurry to the extent that they race around the small streets, often taking longer to get where they should because they end up in accidents.
It has been a long time since I have heard about or seen so many road accidents or so many road deaths. There was a time when I came to the belief that we had become responsible and would take extra care as we travel the streets. But this is not the case. It is as if people have suddenly lost interest in observing the rules.
What is worrying is the aftermath. People always complain that those who hurt their relatives always seem to escape justice. I got a call the other day from a woman whose daughter was struck down on the roads. As is the case with everyone complaining in the wake of the accident, the problem was apparent police inaction.
Everyone wanted the perpetrator to be charged and when this was slow in coming the relatives of the victim would become frustrated. And I can understand this. People are aware that the police have been known to do shoddy work because they know that the outcome of any legal action would depend on their investigation.
It is no secret that there are police ranks who make more on the streets than their employers pay them. And this is the root of the problem. Not only is police work hindered by the person who has more money and can really pay for justice to be subverted, but the society becomes enmeshed in a web of corruption.
The police are not the only people who reach out for money on the side, but they are high profile people and their actions are clearly visible. There was the case of the shooting death in Agricola. The police claimed that they were responding to a report that a group of young men were planning a robbery. That is all well and good. What was not good was the execution of one of the young men.
All the evidence pointed to the fact that a policeman stood over the injured youth and with an expletive, delivered the coup de grace. The hierarchy of the police force promised a thorough investigation and people actually believed the words of the people at the top. But in recent times, there seems to be a backtracking on that promise.
Two weeks after the execution there are no charges. In any other country the investigation would have been completed because the case would have been clear cut. In Guyana the investigation is still ongoing and that boggles the mind. To pacify the inquirers, the police told the nation that the file was with the Director of Public Prosecutions. This was not the case and still is not.
Three men died in Linden and again there has been no action against the police. The police promised an investigation. It has been more than two months. Instead the nation is waiting on recommendations by a team compiled by the Office of the President.
I was on a radio link with Jamaica and the moderator was quick to point out that there is an independent team to investigate police shootings. Guyana has not gone that road because the authorities believe that they have a right to protect their organizations. It is this rush to protect that leads people to have a distrust for the police.
When the very police killed University of Guyana student Yohance Douglas, public pressure led to the prosecution of the policemen who pulled the trigger. The nation was satisfied until the final outcome left a sour taste in people’s mouth. The policemen are back on the job.
The shooting death of a police detective on the Corentyne is a case in point. The headlines were nothing short of sensational. People described the policeman as fearless in his dealings with the drug dealers. He was fearless indeed. Information coming out would suggest he associated with some of them.
This was a 23-year-old policeman with a salary of no more than $50,000 (US$250) per month. Then someone sneaked a photograph of a house that this policeman was building on the Corentyne. I simply raised my eyebrows and let the questions simmer in my throat.
There are policemen who do take their work seriously. I have reported on policemen who prosecuted those who offered bribes, but these are in the minority. Why is this a case in point? Too many people are complaining that they are being denied justice.
In my book, policemen should not be seen as the people who cause the denial of justice. Recently, two former police commissioners died. The public reaction was less than flattering. In Guyana we are a people who tend to be forgiving of the dead. When we step out of that mould something is wrong, very wrong. And the police need to take note.