– Jagdeo urges tough measures to arrest the problem
Eighteen top cops from the English-speaking Caribbean and surrounding countries, including Suriname, Cayenne and the Dutch Antilles, will begin discussions on reforming the regional policing mechanisms to meet the current challenges posed by crime.
The occasion is the 24th Annual Conference of the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP), which is being held at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown, under the theme ‘Police Reform as an Imperative for Quality Service.’
Cognisant of the many challenges and high expectations facing them, the region’s top policemen will over the next five days come up with initiatives that can be used to foster greater cooperation both among themselves and further afield in the growing demands posed by organised crime, drug trafficking and gun running.
These issues along with the global economic situation as well as climate change will form a major part of the deliberations.
This year’s conference comes at a time when the region is being pushed to implement what some may deem tough strategies to arrest the criminal runaway train that could ultimately undermine economic development.
As noted by current ACCP President, Darwin Dottin, of Barbados, the world as a whole is very different from when the organization was formed in 1985 with drug trafficking and gun running now making up a significant portion of the criminal landscape.
Since then, the region has undergone significant changes, with increased sharing of information, personnel and services now the norm.
According to Dottin, since the formation of the association, law enforcement has taken on a more demanding role since the region is at the geographical crossroads between the world’s largest producer and the world’s largest drug consumer.
“Today we operate in an environment of rising levels of crime, a reality that has attracted the attention of several, including the international community,” the Barbados Top Cop said.
He echoed the sentiments of his counterparts who spoke before him that the region as a whole does not have the resources to fight the scourge of drug trafficking.
In his feature address to the conference, Guyana’s President Bharat Jagdeo pointed out that the call for regional governments to spend more money on security is constrained by huge fiscal deficits.
He stressed that reforming the security systems in the region must be a culture and not just a theme.
Issues such as gang violence, something that is ravaging Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, and in the past Guyana, should be addressed with the strongest possible measures, he said.
The Guyanese leader is of the opinion that the region sometimes appears to be ashamed of itself and this, he said, negatively affects the implementation of strong measures to deal with criminal threats.
“I also hope that you will examine how the developing countries act when they are faced with challenges to their society and their people.”
He pointed to the examples of some developing countries, which have adopted strong measures to combat the threats that faced them in recent times.
The United States of America, for example, implemented the Patriot Act in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks and the British enacted legislation to hold detainees for up to 42 days without charge following terrorists attacks in that country.
Jagdeo said that although these measures reversed many of the gains that these countries had made in terms of their human rights, they were justifiable because of the situation faced by these countries.
“Sometimes we feel ashamed when we have to act to protect our society. We’re ashamed because we think that we are reversing several gains and that may be a cause for concern.
But we’re not on the same level.”
He chided some regional leaders for what he described as “playing politics with crime.”
According to Jagdeo, regional governments in most cases fall prey to lectures from the developing world, whose leaders charge them with eroding civil rights of citizens whenever strong measures are implemented, while they, in the developed world do the opposite.
“We think that we have to comply with international notions of civil rights behaviour whilst our people are suffering. So we have to, in a very practical sense, do the things necessary to give our security forces the same tools that the security forces have in the developed world,” Jagdeo said.
He explained that he is not only speaking about money but legislation to facilitate wiretapping and other intelligence gathering measures.
The President said that he is pleased that regional leaders at a recent meeting had agreed to some very practical measures, coming out of recommendations from previous meetings of regional Commissioners of Police, to arrest the situation facing Caribbean countries.
A CARICOM polygraphing policy to deal with corruption was one of the recommendations. It has not yet come into force.
Already Guyana has started this policy with the polygraphing of several members of the security sector.
Jagdeo was full of praise for the local police. He pointed to the success of the Guyana Police Force in curbing the country’s once spiraling crime dilemma despite the absence of adequate resources.
“It is their dedication to the job and not all about money,” the Guyanese leader stated.
CARICOM Assistant Secretary General Edward Greene, who also addressed the opening ceremony highlighted that the police forces throughout the region bore the brunt of the criticisms for the situation facing the society.
He said that the region owes a debt of gratitude to the law enforcement agencies that have been under pressure to prevent the various societies from disintegrating.
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