On a visit to Guyana last August, I paid a courtesy call on the then PPP/C Presidential Candidate, Donald Ramotar, to pledge my support for his candidacy, and to express my desire to remigrate as a demonstration of my confidence in his ability to continue the onward thrust in the country’s development should he win.
Apart from readjusting to the intense heat in Guyana, I explained that the main deterrent that prevented me from returning home thus far, was the elevating and out-of-control crime rate that dominated the news on a daily basis.
Candidate Ramotar explained, “Harry, I can’t do anything about the heat. But I promise if elected, my administration will do everything possible to significantly reduce the crime rate.”
As President, Donald Ramotar has not disappointed me. Crime in Guyana is on the decline although it is way above an acceptable limit. But most importantly, more crimes are being solved, and the perpetrators are arrested to face justice. Whatever orders were passed down the chain of command, The Guyana Police Force seems to be operating now with a renewed sense of purpose and dedication of duty. Both Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee and the new acting Police Commissioner Leroy Brumell must be given credit for the high level of professionalism now being executed by most members of the Guyana Police Force. I said “most” because we all know that there are some rogue cops who, with brazen arrogance, shamelessly continue to fleece the treasury by demanding bribes from motorists every day. Members of the Police Traffic Department are notorious for this.
In his address to the Annual Police Officers Conference on March 1st, His Excellency Donald Ramotar made these remarks, “Recent incidents have not helped to enhance the image of the Force. Corruption must be dealt with condignly. You cannot deny that a few members of the Force have tarnished the good image of the organization by their involvement in corrupt activities. All forms of corruption must be rooted out. There should be no sacred cows. If by chance there is alleged corruption, then the law should take its course. This organization must be an example of cleanliness and transparency.”
And I was delighted to read last Monday’s Kaieteur News headlines: Corrupt cops given ultimatum… “Turn in your badges by Monday” – Brumell (KN, July 8). The significance of this zero tolerance approach to root out corruption among rogue cops by the Commissioner, must not be overlooked. It sends a strong signal and begs the question, “Who’s next?”
As the proud father of a daughter who is a police Detective Investigator in New York, whose husband is also a New York City police officer -NYPD, I know full well the dangers that police officers face every day in that high-risk profession. Good police officers must not have to suffer the embarrassment of being tainted by the disgraceful and repulsive behaviour of some in the department, who use their uniforms as ATM machines.
Although some may believe that it will be difficult to bring charges against these rogue cops, there is a simple and effective way to do this: Drivers should be encouraged to arm themselves with miniature tape recorders, and discretely record the police officer’s instructions when they’re pulled over for a traffic violation.
When they’re asked, “Lef or Write”, the motorist should choose the option of the ticket, but then do the “right” thing by reporting the incident to a senior officer in the department. If the motorist can prove that a bribe was initiated, the ticket should be voided and the ticketing officer suspended without pay for a week. If that police officer accumulates three bribery suspensions, he/she is dismissed from the force. By the same token, if a motorist offers a bribe to a police officer so as to avoid going to court or paying the full cost of the traffic offence, that motorist should be given another summons for bribing a police officer.
On the other hand, dedicated police officers must be rewarded for going the extra mile to keep our citizens safe. And I challenge the authorities to design an incentive program that would reward the “Cop of the Year” the deed for a house lot, where he/she can build a home.
Sometime ago, I had offered to set up a committee to give a US$100 incentive to police officers for every illegal gun taken off the street. This offer was regrettably ignored by former Police Commissioner Henry Greene.
In an earlier letter, I gave some suggestions on how to “Improve the image of the police” (Kaieteur News, March 17, 2010), I wrote: “Because the police have a reputation of being brutal: one should never forget the recent barbarous torture of a 14-year-old boy who was doused with methylated spirits and set alight; the authorities should seriously consider dropping the word “Force” from the name Guyana Police Force, and let the service be known as ‘The Guyana Police’ or ‘The Guyana Police Department’. This will help to put a human face on the department.
Retrain the entire department in public relations. No one should be afraid to talk to a police officer as they do now, for very often the police rely on the full cooperation of the public, in order to function effectively in the execution of their duties.
The Guyana Police must interact more with the public. They should conduct yearly lectures at schools in all communities, targeting both children and parents. At these forums, they should discuss the need to rise above poverty and to avoid a career of crime through education; the dangers of using drugs, alcohol and cigarettes; challenge the parents to be good citizens, to set the right examples for their kids to follow, and to create an environment at home that is conducive to producing the next generation of leaders.”
As the Guyana Police Force continues its 173rd anniversary program, I urge those in authority to consider the above recommendations for implementation.
By throwing down the gauntlet and making it clear that he intends to jail those corrupted cops in his Force, the Police Commissioner’s courage deserves recognition. This is the kind of decisive leadership we need to restore trust, credibility and respectability to this national institution. And I hope it wouldn’t be long before he is confirmed in that position.
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