The time is now right for those who are responsible for security in Guyana to begin to embrace modern technology and equip the ranks of the various Community Policing Groups with more effective but less lethal weapons.
This view has long been held by Alliance For Change Leader Khemraj Ramjatan who said that his party will be pushing for legislative changes that could see community policing ranks be given relevant weapons
“I have asked on numerous occasions for these people to be given stun guns…, which can knock you out, and not kill you. Why don’t they invest in that for the Community Policing Group? That’s the kind of investment that the Alliance For Change would like to see,” Ramjattan reasoned.
His restated position comes in the wake of the shooting of a 20 year old Bellevue, West Bank Demerara youth, Godfrey Jhaggroo called ‘Oh-Oh’, reportedly by members of the neighbourhood’s Community Policing Group.
A police official statement said that their “Initial investigations have revealed that Godfrey Jhaggroo was involved in an argument with his mother during which a man, who resides next door and operates an off licence liquor store, intervened and assaulted him with a piece of wood.”
According to the police, Jhaggroo was on his way to the Wales Police Station to make a report when he was confronted by three men, one of whom is a licenced firearm holder, “and who were at the off licence liquor store, during which he was shot to his back with a shotgun.”
Ramjattan said that he had read about the incident and “I want to believe that it is almost like murder and it smacks of an execution and extra judicial killing.”
“It is totally abhorrent to our system of justice, and it must not be done and the people doing it be literally not chastised, and sometimes even being praised. It is a horrible development,” the AFC Leader stated.
Ramjattan agreed that last Thursday’s case was not one that had to be attended to with the type of force that was used.
For one, he said that the CPG members have no real training to make proper assessment of a particular situation.
“This just goes to show they want to be judge, jury and executioner …they are making their own assessment, and they are given guns that can shoot bullets at almost seven yards per second. Once that shot is fired it becomes unreviewable and the death thereafter becomes another horrific experience for Guyanese citizens and this has to be brought to a halt,” Ramjattan stated.
Because of the nature of criminal activities these days, Community Policing Groups are not expected to engage criminals in armed confrontations but rather they are supposed to gather information and contact the more equipped Guyana Police Force.
Ramjattan strongly recommended that if the concept of Community Policing is to work there be a huge investment in the training of those involved, so that they can execute their duty in a lawful and proper fashion that will not end up in unnecessary injury or death to innocent Guyanese.
“You remember the Yohance Douglas incident, and they were policemen much less these guys, and now they are given powerful weapons,” Ramjattan, a defence attorney, said.
He pointed out that this development is symptomatic of the reality that passes for law enforcement in Guyana, adding that the real police are the lesser of the two evils, since in the main local law enforcers are trigger happy.
“Within the community policing group, once they have guns, they are far more trigger-happy, if you were to look at ratio as to how many shootings they would do normally. But it sometimes goes unreported. So it is something that we really have to start thinking through better…so that these Community Policing people don’t start killing people,” the AFC Leader stated.
“We had seen this development in another period of Guyana’s history, when the Community Policing started getting a lot of immunity,” he added, noting that CPG members were usurping the powers of the regular police, by wantonly searching and arresting persons,” he added.
Ramjattan laid the blame for the seemingly out-of-control CPGs on the ruling People’s Progressive Party.
“The PPP loves that kind of thing, because all those Community Policing Groups are made up of hardcore PPP activists. So they want to arm them in a very indirect way,” Ramjattan stated.
His beliefs are similar to that of a former senior police officer who told this newspaper that Community Policing Groups operate as if they are only accountable to the Ministry of Home Affairs.
Speaking with this newspaper yesterday, the senior officer who was integrally involved in the early days of Community Policing, recalled that the late Commissioner of Police Laurie Lewis always insisted that the CPGs know under which authority they fall, and that is the police.
“It is clear that Community Policing is heading in a different direction. It is troubling and disturbing to note that during the 33rd anniversary celebrations of Community Policing in Guyana, the honourable Minister of Home Affairs had said that community policing had not been taken away from the Guyana Police Force, and that it is the police who are responsible for monitoring them. Yet the current circumstances reflect otherwise. Some groups are misguided because the Ministry through its Liaison Officers keeps insisting that CPGs report to the Ministry,” the former cop said.
He added that this is why some Divisional Commanders and other senior police officers are now adopting a hands-off approach to some Community Policing Groups.
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