According to recent reports incidents of police misconduct and professionalism seem to have become endemic over the past few months. It may be that not enough serious thinking has gone into promoting a sustainable plan which would result in a reformed Guyana Police Force.
One would have to be blessed with an escapist mentality to persist in the belief that the actions of those misguided ranks who are caught out are anomalies which belie the actual culture of the force.
Allegations of professional misconduct – some proven— have been made against ranks at various levels including for stealing; demanding with menace; brutality of persons in and out of custody; extra-judicial killings; not appearing to give evidence in court; incompetent investigations; non-response to calls for assistance just to name a few.
The Guyanese people justifiably would like to know when they will get some relief from their protectors. But it all comes back to the issue of how soon will the reforms – whatever they are (if form and substance) will be apparent to the rest of the society. That is if the police themselves know what they are supposed to be doing.
This column has observed before that there is a fundamental difference between a modern police force and a police force that is universally acceptable in its approach to the functions of protecting the people.
The thrust of the argument is that the GPF might be equipped with all the modern material, amenities, training and the works, but that it remains stuck in a Neanderthal mode where people are routinely brutalized at points of contact or while in custody where death results; or shot dead in circumstances where the eyewitnesses version contradicts that of the police; or evidence and files disappear or are misplaced by the police; or monies due to ranks for extra duty are misappropriated by superior officers; or where ranks are still subjected to abuse and sexual harassment; or where reports of domestic and sexual violence are treated casually and callously.
No police administration anywhere in the world which encourages or ignores these weaknesses can lay claim to employing modern police practices
In response to complaints about police deficiencies the Guyanese people have grown weary of the stock rebuttal that ranks have received training. It would be interesting to know the number and types of courses the officers and ranks of the GPF have participated in annually.
One may be forgiven for gaining the impression that when officers return from local and overseas courses all that is required is a presentation outlining what the programme was about. The people and government need to know that in-house training programmes have been set up and timelines and benchmarks established to ascertain that knowledge and skills transfers are taking place as they should.
Any moves to fulfill those expectations are clearly not evident judging from the perpetuation of unprofessional conduct at all levels of the GPF. Overseas courses are simply a trip away from the local scene; nothing more with a few officers being the most travelled compared to their contemporaries in the region. The question remains, have they ensured that the force benefitted from their overseas sojourn at the expense of the taxpayers?
There is absolutely no acceptable reason why the GPF should not inform the public about the nature and type of reforms envisaged; it is a reasonable and natural expectation by the people who expect no less than a professional police force. However this factor does not ignore the reality that police reform is risky and hard, and efforts to innovate in policing, sometimes fall short of expectations.
What might astonish people is level of internal resistance to change, including active opposition to reform at virtually all levels of some police organisations. Potential opponents of change need to be brought into the process while consideration must be given to letting the public understand how their investment in policing is enhancing police professional performance and productivity for the nation’s benefit.
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