Training may be lacking
Training is crucial for anyone to be a success in whatever undertaking that person chooses. We have seen great people in many spheres. We have seen athletes shattering world records; there are doctors performing unimaginable surgical interventions; cricketers must work at their profession continuously as must every sportsman.
It is the same with every professional and the police are a professional organization. All over the world they are respected because they are the difference between anarchy and a stable society. To undertake this role they are trained rigorously.
Every police force must keep improving itself and this is only done through continuous training. As society improves so too must the police. The time was when the police were mere patrollers of the streets to deter public lawlessness such as drunkenness and disorderly behavior in the neighbor.
Petty thieves were arrested and prosecuted and more often than not, were made to fear the police and so desist from their acts of petty thievery. Guyana had police officers who, from looking at a particular scene or examining the reports of an act of thievery, would in short order, arrest the perpetrator. In short, they were able to appreciate who would do what. And this was because of their training.
Policemen were invariably armed with a whistle and a baton and handcuffs in the not too distant past, perhaps some fifty years ago. Today, in Guyana the police are armed. This is unlike what operates in Great Britain where more than 80 per cent of the population keeps insisting that the beat police remain unarmed.
A few weeks ago a man killed two female police officers who, like the bulk of the British police force, were unarmed. Despite the murders the society insisted that the police remain unarmed. The only change has been to intensify training.
In Guyana, there has been some effort to train the policemen and policewomen before they take to the streets. There are police training colleges in each county and each year they graduate a certain number of ranks. It has not escaped notice that many of these recruits are unarmed. However, there are sections of the police force that dictate that its ranks all carry arms.
The late Police Commissioner, Laurie Lewis created what he called the Quick Reaction Group, all of whom had to carry arms. Then there was the Tactical Services Unit which is a carryover from the old Volunteer Force that was tasked with riot control and other hostile situations. The Tactical Services Unit these days has been made to incorporate specially armed ranks.
The crime wave that followed the February 23, 2002 jailbreak saw the ranks of the Tactical Services Unit being thrown into the shooting episodes with the armed criminals. Ever since, the members of this unit keep undergoing training to deal with hostile situations.
They are allowed to patrol the streets with a view to keeping it safe; they race to scenes where violent crimes are reported and it would seem that they are more often than not, too willing to shoot. But their training must inform them when to shoot. Professional ranks in other societies are only allowed to shoot as a last resort. In Guyana the gun is the first option, often with fatal consequences and a lot of recrimination.
In recent times the police have been accused of shooting indiscriminately. This is because their training has either been insufficient or non-existent. No police rank should shoot unless he or she is threatened. That is what the training manuals state. But it must be that the manuals are being ignored.
There were some recent police shootings and all are now under investigation. In one case the ranks are being prosecuted while in the others a full scale investigation has been mounted. We say that from the time of the first shooting there should have been investigations. These were not done and shooting is now a way of life for these ranks, some of whom are not too far removed from the criminal elements they are supposed to protect the society against.
The shooting outside the Fish Shop, if intentional, exposes the poor level of training imparted to the ranks. If the shooting was accidental then the same poor level of training is evident—but this time in carrying the weapon in crowded areas.