We are not happy with the way the new Commissioner of Police, Mr. Seelall Persaud is running the Guyana Police Force. After almost a year on the job, he has not done anything substantial to prove to the people that he is a leader who will not accept anything less than sterling performance from the rank and file.
Apart from the photo ops in Albouystown with a few residents, Mr. Seelall Persaud has hardly been seen or heard from. He is what we describe as the invisible Police Chief. He cannot run the Police Force from behind closed doors or having lunch with the President and the Minister of Home Affairs and be effective.
Mr. Seelall Persaud, a career police officer with over 30 years of service, takes over a Police Force that is seemingly steeped in corruption, reeling from accusations of human rights abuses, and an organization which has, for all intents and purposes, totally lost contact, trust and confidence with the citizens of Guyana.
There are too many ills besetting the Police Force, some of which require straight surgery with several scalpels rather than band-aid treatment which the inept Minister of Home Affairs has been applying over the years.
The Minister does not have a clue as how to solve crime because he is not qualified or experience in security issues and the portfolio is too difficult for him to manage or as they say in local parlance “way over his head”.
The Commissioner must, once and for all, present a sound plan as to how he would get rid of the entrenched culture of massive corruption, excessive brutality and human rights abuses that currently plague the Force and how it can regain the trust and confidence of the people.
The Force has been known for bullying the people, beating and torturing alleged criminal suspects, mostly Afro-Guyanese youths to sign false statements confessing to crimes they did not commit.
It can be rightly said that the Police Force lacks resources, both personnel and equipment. We understand this, but what we cannot appreciate or deal with is the often callous, rude and sometimes downright barbaric manner in which some police personnel treat the citizens.
The Commissioner and Crime Chief have to immediately stop the police from arresting innocent citizens and pinning crimes on them. This has become a blatant and common practice of Force. If a DNA test is conducted on the prisoners it will show that roughly 30 percent of the 95 percent Afro-Guyanese youths are serving time for crimes they did not commit. In other words, they were forced to confess to crimes they did not commit and are too poor to hire lawyers to defend themselves.
We believe that the Commissioner’s first task is to establish trust and robust communication with the people to get their support in the important matter of solving crime.
After all, every member of the Force, including the Top Cops, took an oath to serve and protect; not to abuse, hurt and violate the human rights of the citizens. That has to stop.
Too often the partisan Minister of Home Affairs has interfered in the running of the Police Force and this has led to favouritism and a breakdown of efficiency and effective policing. He has issued directives to Commanders aimed at protecting the rich and powerful and members and supporters of the PPP without allowing the police to do a thorough investigation of the matter at hand.
In an environment of generally bad news about crime, neither the Minister of Home Affairs nor the Commissioner has offered any hope to the people who are desperate for something positive from law enforcement in terms of solving crime.
It is a way of sustaining their hope and indeed, may translate into something positive for the Force in terms of re-gaining the confidence and trust that is lacking from the public.
The public’s perception of the Police Force is that it is a corrupt, brutal and an incompetent institution whose primary crime-fighting method is ineffective as reflected in the fact that around 38 per cent of all murders in Guyana remain unsolved and that the police annually kill about 35 civilians annually, some innocent and others in alleged gunfights.
This suggests that neither Minister Rohee nor the leadership of the Police Force seems capable of producing policies, strategies, or tactics for a sustained reduction in crime and murders of innocent civilians by armed bandits.
There were more than 130 homicides in Guyana in 2013, a 28 per cent increase over the previous year and this will likely increase by an additional 10 percent in 2014.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime lists Guyana homicide rate as 18.4 per 100,000—the fourth highest rate in South America behind Brazil, Venezuela and Colombia.
We want the people to know that Guyana’s murder rate in 2013 was three times higher than that of the United States on a per population ratio basis.
This is the case despite the false claim by the incompetent Minister of Home Affairs that the murder rate in Guyana is declining.
High unemployment and social neglect — the causes of which can be traced to the high crime rate have made armed robbery and murders more easily accessible to the unemployed and hopeless youths. In the current atmosphere, the people must condemn the performance of both the Minister and the police.
Obviously, strong and very proactive intervention is needed by the Minister to help reduce crime and ease the fear of the people. But such intervention cannot take place successfully while the Minister is in denial and the Force continues to abuse and brutalize the citizens.
However, we believe that no priority should be greater than that of equipping the security forces with the personnel, material and legislative support to protect the country and its people from marauding criminals. For the nation to move forward, respect for the law by all and the security of the people must be priority one for the Minister of Home Affairs.
Dr. Reginald Watkins
Dr. Merle Spenser-Marks
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