Two news items appeared in yesterday’s newspapers which if true should lead to the immediate suspension of the police officers concerned, investigations into both incidents and if the allegations are established to the dismissal of the police officers.
Under Commissioner Henry Greene, the Guyana Police Force has gone a far way in improving its image. Allegations of extrajudicial killings involving the police have all but disappeared. And generally, efforts have been made to improve the functioning of the Guyana Police Force.
Greene has done a good job so far also in reducing crime. However, despite his best attempts, the police are still viewed with dislike and distrust by large sections of the population, and the greatest source of this displeasure by the public concerns traffic cops and the numerous anti-crime ranks who now seem obsessed with performing traffic functions.
If there is any area of the Guyana Police Force’s work which needs reform it is the traffic management and control. This aspect of police work is giving the force a bad name and it is also giving the government a bad name because the traffic cop and those other police officers who like to perform traffic duties are ubiquitous.
The government does not appreciate how disgusted the public is with traffic ranks. Traffic cops are perhaps the most despised individuals in this country. A great many motorists may smile and try to befriend these ranks when in their presence. They may even meet them off duty and buy a few beers for them. But this is only because they wish to not be subject to the rampant abuse of power that is practised by traffic ranks and which were expressed in two letters in yesterday’s newspapers.
In the first letter, a motorist indicated that he was stopped by traffic ranks outside of the Weldaad Police Station and given a ticket for having a photocopy of his road service permit, instead of the original pasted on his windscreen.
Now there are thousands of motorists, including many hire car drivers, who do not paste the original permit on their windscreen and for good reason. These permits are bleached illegible because of their constant exposure to the sun. There are other reasons why some vehicles carry photocopies and not originals.
Certain big companies and taxis services like to centralize their records so that they can effectively manage their operations. As such they keep the originals in the office and provide their drivers with photocopies. Drivers who own their own vehicles also at times prefer to simply paste a photocopy and keep the original in their glove compartment. What is wrong with a traffic cop having suspicions about the authenticity of a permit asking the driver to see the original?
Why give the driver a ticket for this when the original could have been requested? It was only a few years ago that the traffic department, with good reason, decided to enforce the regulations which require the permit to be displayed where it can be seen.
For years, this regulation was not enforced and now suddenly certain traffic ranks are seeking to give persons tickets because they opt to display a photocopy rather than the original.
In the instance, the officer should have shown greater understanding and simply warned the driver. But the fact that he did not mean that he lacks that understanding that is necessary for the fair performance of his functions.
As such, that officer should be immediately suspended pending an investigation and if it is found that he acted unreasonably he should either be dismissed or sent outside of the traffic department. This country does not need traffic cops who give out tickets for offenses such as that which it is alleged was committed.
What also should not be tolerated is the other case where it is alleged that the passengers of a motor vehicles were asked to disembark and forced to stand in the rain. This was totally unnecessary and inhumane and the ranks concerned who were said not to be original traffic ranks should be suspended pending investigation.
There is no reason why a driver should be accompanied by a police rank to the station if that person has some form of identity. Once the driver has some form of identification, then the details should be taken and the driver asked to report to the station if a ticket cannot be issued on the spot.
There is no reason for the rank to get into the vehicle and no reason why the passenger should be placed to stand in the rain.
It is now left to be seen what the acting Commissioner of Police and the Ministry of Home Affairs are going to do about these allegations made against members of the Guyana Police Force.
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