Asks Michael Benjamin
Oh God, Call de Police! It is this exclamation that has forced many a police officer to conclude that ‘after God is the Police.’ The police are the coercive arm of the government in a democratic society and respect for them is unquestionable.
The profundity of this statement brokers no debate especially when one considers the immense power law enforcement officers wield.
Irrespective of the ploys and systems put in place to maintain law and order and irrespective of the rigidity of punishment issued in the courts, people will continue to devise ways to avoid persecution and opt, instead, to pay off police officers to look the other way while they (lawbreakers) engage in nefarious activities.
Some officers remain inflexible and irrespective of the ‘large dumps’ thrown their way, will insist on taking the offenders before the courts to defend themselves against whatever infraction they are charged.
Understandably, there will be officers who would allow the lure of money to cause them to compromise their integrity. This is an internal matter that would require appropriate strategies by the hierarchy of the Guyana Police Force to contain.
While the police top brass convene to discuss ways and means to stymie criminal activities, law breakers will convene to employ ingenuous ways to counteract and dupe the police officers.
Policing is an interesting job but it is also dangerous activity. A police officer’s life is fraught with danger as was witnessed by the droves that were slaughtered or injured during the crime spree after the infamous 2002 jail break.
Policing covers a wide area from traffic to narcotics to piracy on the seas to name a few. Officers are also called upon to investigate malfeasance in public offices and other white collar crimes.
Dealing with such matters becomes complex by dint of the academic level of these perpetrators this vocation attracts. Special tact and intelligence is necessary to crack these cases and further successfully persecute the offenders.
It is at this stage that smart policemen are differentiated from people just dressed in blue and black.
I have never been a police officer but I have trained among several, many of whom would have left the Force by now. The year was 1983 when members of the Joint Services convened at Base Command Papaya in the North West District for a six months Joint Services Recruit Orientation Programme (JSROC).
Each of the armed forces enjoyed vast representation and at the end of the exercise, was posted back to their respective entities. So even though I had never dressed in blue and black, I have more than just a passing understanding of the vagaries of police work.
Criminals aspire to be one step ahead of the police at all times. Every once in a while an ambitious cop decides to make a difference and concocts some ploy to nab lawbreakers.
A certain officer, just out of Training School decided to be innovative. He noted that drunk drivers were mostly responsible for accidents and decided to take a proactive stance to curb the problem. One night he decided to stake out a particularly rowdy bar for possible driving under the influence (DUI) violations.
At closing time, he saw a fellow tumble out of the bar, trip on the curb, and try his keys in five different cars before he found his. Then he sat in the front seat fumbling around with his keys for several minutes. Everyone else left the bar and drove off.
Finally he started his engine and began to pull away. The police officer was waiting for him. He stopped the driver, read him his rights and administered the Breathalyzer test.
The results showed a reading of 0.0. The puzzled officer demanded to know how that could be. The driver replied, “Tonight I’m the designated decoy.”
It is not that the officer was naïve. Simply put, bandits are seriously studying the police and their tactics and are improvising shrewd strategies to counteract their moves. One of the lessons I have learnt is that justice starts with the police officer.
When that rank conducts a search and find mission (and the find is illegal drugs), he/she must decide whether to uphold the principles of his/her job, apprehend the villain and let the law take its course or soil his character and the image of the organization he represents by accepting a bribe.
A friend informed me the other day that an officer told him flat out that if he (the friend) did not pass something he would march him before the courts.
“What did you do?” I asked
“Well rather than wasting time going to court and eventually having to pay a huge fine, I took the easy way out,” was his reply.
Police officers have never asked me for a bribe. I know so many of them intimately that I cannot honestly say that I have actually doled out a bribe after they issue me with a stern warning for some traffic infringement. If I, without let or duress decide to leave a ‘li’l top up’ with an officer, can that be construed as a bribe?
I remember when Mike Tyson rammed his Oldsmobile into a utility post in New York. When the investigating officer arrived he generously give the slightly damaged vehicle to him. The officer’s superiors, upon hearing of the deal, became livid and ordered that they return the vehicle. Would that have happened in Guyana?
Police Forces around the world have used all kinds of ingenuous ways to contain crime. I have known of instances where the police beseeched all non-licensed firearm holders to turn in their weapons within a specified amnesty period. There were times when the officers in the USA offered to pay a small fee for every weapon brought in and no questions asked.
Needless to say, weapons of all descriptions and in all kinds of conditions were turned in. This ploy has worked in the developed countries. Maybe the time is ripe to employ such strategies in Guyana in order to reduce some of the firepower off the streets.
Crime is now clothed in youthful bodies as witnessed by ‘Nasty Man’ and ‘Skinny’ among others.
Shortly before ‘Cobra’ was captured, the police issued a bulletin offering a monetary reward for anyone that takes him in.
By now, ‘Cobra’ had risen to sudden notoriety and was being fingered in every crime perpetrated. It turned out that he was right under the Police noses and when he felt the pressure associated with being on the lam, he decided to confide in media operatives where he was hiding out rather that walk into the building of lawmen that had vowed to ‘serve and protect.’ What an irony!
The obvious question that arises is who collects the reward allotted for his capture? That issue is no longer being discussed. Maybe the rationale is that Cobra’s apprehenders did not employ intelligence or resources to apprehend him therefore they could not claim for the reward.
This is like shifting the goalpost whenever it seems prudent so to do. The hierarchy of the Force may be missing a prudent point; they had never set down parameters, therefore they should pay up.
The job of police officers ought not to be taken lightly. On the same level, the input of the public in solving crimes should not be underrated nor undermined. Every citizen is a police officer in his own right but hardly anyone is willing to risk their lives divulging information to a Force that reneges on its promise. Integrity and honesty must be the watchword.
Years ago, while in Canada, I remembered a certain police officer who was notorious for apprehending traffic violators. She had an unassuming personality, meted out her duties fairly and firmly and never accepted bribes.
Her name was Alice Friend. She would stop a violator, inform him of his transgressions and then issue him/her with a ticket. She always signed the document with a flourish, ‘A Friend.’
Pretty soon all of the motorists began to understand that with such ‘Friends’ there was no room for enemies.
As a police officer, it is important to assume a firm yet friendly disposition. After all with ‘Friends’ like Alice, there would be no need for the Police Force. The ‘Police’ maybe, but certainly not the ‘Force.’
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