Mar 14, 2013 News
… residents call for removal of stigma
Eleven years ago, ranks of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) would not have envisioned having peaceful discourse with members of the Buxton community. But all that changed on Tuesday when senior members of the Force engaged residents in an attempt at starting a new relationship with the community.
Buxtonians were asked to forget the past and start anew; to focus on a future where the police and residents can become friends to build a stronger and safer community. The Force’s outreach programme saw Buxtonians congregating at the community’s High School to relate their woes. The police, likewise, related their plans for the area.
Assistant Commissioner and Commander of ‘C’ Division Eric Bassant, Superintendent of Police Stephen Mansell, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Albert Ferrell, Inspector Alli Ashram of Cove John Police Station and several ranks under their command including traffic officers were available.
Buxtonians were told of plans to launch a Buxton Police Youth club which will start in the next two weeks.
The officers highlighted that in various communities, seasoned criminals are recruiting young men for criminal activities. The cops said that they are willing to accept the youths and engage them in various skills activities such as forensics training and photography among other things through the youth group.
The stigma attached to the Buxton Community
When community members were given a chance to air their concerns, several issues about the treatment they receive from the police arose.
One woman complained that when a report is made, they hear comments like “Buxton again”. Persons are treated harshly, they said.
A man added that even when persons seek work and engage business people, there would be withdrawal when Buxton is mentioned.
Residents cried out about police harassment especially where young males are concerned.
An outspoken young man, one of the few in attendance, asked about police Standard Operating Procedures when approaching persons and about stop and search methods by police officers and the manner in which they should conduct themselves.
That same man had expressed earlier that the community deserves an apology because of how residents were treated during the “crime wave” of the early 2000s.
He said that he lived through the events and it had been downhill for the community ever since.
Residents continued to complain about police officers who take bribes and order money from residents, even when a crime has not been committed, they said.
“Dem does tell you how dem got to mek dem box money.”
To these issues, Commander Bassant charged that he would not condone any acts of harassment and corruption.”If you see an officer doing wrong, don’t be afraid to report it,” he urged.
Superintendent Mansell said that there are Standard Operating Procedures for all ranks. Officers too have a hard time dealing with tough characters. “Ranks complain sometimes how people curse them and tell them all kinds of things.”
Mansell spoke about persons liming on street corners, something he said is illegal.
Requesting police assistance
Residents asked for better police response. Since the focus was on the youngsters, residents asked for assistance with game shop owners who allow students during school hours to use their facilities. A teacher asked about traffic ranks being posted at pedestrian crossings near private schools and none for their public school.
She said that she would have to assist students in crossing as it is difficult to get over the busy street because vehicles do not give way.
Another teacher contributed that at one time even a police car sped past the pedestrian crossing without stopping for the school children.
“If I could have gotten close to him, I would have asked him what is your motto?” she charged. The teacher continued that when police presence is required at schools, it is difficult. One time, she said, a young man ran into the school with a cutlass and the police when contacted said they had no vehicle and told her to call another police station; it was only after she threatened to go to the media that they turned up.
It was promised that from yesterday the pedestrian crossing problem would be rectified and the crossing would soon get a face lift.
Complaints continued about loaded school buses with load music to which the police promised action. When highlighted, the police also promised to look into matters of neighbourhood bullies and petty robberies.
Tuesday’s meeting closed on a positive note as Buxtonians and residents who spoke of other areas were seemingly satisfied and appreciative of the police initiative to engage the community.
The police said there is fresh talent in Buxton and they will assist youths to tap into it. That was one way they said they could assist the youths in staying away from trouble.
Community elders were asked to play a part in a new initiative to have these persons intervene in a matter before the police.
Mansell said, “Not everything should be about the police. Community leaders can intervene. It should not always be about charging and prosecuting a person.” He said if something happens and community leaders could assist they should and if they see that the matter needs the Force’s intervention, then the necessary is done.
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