Jul 04, 2016 News
– UK High Commissioner
By Jarryl Bryan
The Police Complaints Authority, established under the 1989 Act, is in place to receive complaints made against serving members of the Guyana Police Force. Its Chairman is retired Justice Cecil Kennard.
But there have been questions of the Authority’s independence despite the legislation ‘mandating’ that the authority be independent. A process considered by some to be ponderous in dealing with complaints has also eroded the confidence of some in the Authority.
In an exclusive interview with Kaieteur News, United Kingdom (UK) High Commissioner Greg Quinn was asked about best practices and institutions which handle allegations of police brutality. He made it clear that having an independent and free police complaints authority was imperative to enhancing public confidence in the police force.
“We have an independent and free police complaints authority which has oversight of the police,” The High Commissioner said. “(And) I think (it) is very important that there is an independent police complaints authority that has the powers to investigate and has the right to ask questions.”
Quinn said that ultimately, if things are proven to have happened that shouldn’t have happened, the authority can have the leeway to actually initiate proceedings against the officer(s).
“And our police force welcomes the fact that there is oversight of what they are doing,” Quinn stated. “(So) certainly our encouragement to anywhere is to have a complaints authority that the public has got confidence in. This can only be viewed as a way of ensuring confidence in the police force more generally.”
Quinn also said that training played a crucial part in the entire process. He noted that it was not simply a question of the authority, but also ensuring that the police were familiar with the rules and procedures governing their conduct.
“Of course you’ve got to train the policemen on what is the proper procedure. So it’s not simply a case of having a police complaints authority going in and saying what is wrong, it’s only fair that the police force is told and educated on what they can and cannot do.”
The police force, in a notable effort to bridge differences with the public, has been engaged in activities designed to engage youths. The latest example of this was the ‘A’ Division Youth Expo held at D’urban Park last month. There have been calls, however, for specific reforms.
With regard to the authority, Chapter 17:02, Section Two of the Act stipulates that once a complaint has not been deemed “frivolous”, the complaint (against a member of the police force) will be referred to the Commissioner of Police for an investigation and inquiry.
It also states that “the Commissioner shall cause the complaint to be investigated expeditiously under Section Five of the Police (Disciplinary) Act and a copy of the report of the investigating officer referred to in Section Five (Four) of that Act shall be forwarded by the Commissioner, as soon as possible after the report is submitted, to the Authority for his comments.”
One of the worst cases of police misconduct was the torture of then 15-year-old Twyon Thomas, a case that was highlighted on the international stage in 2009. The officers who were implicated were Corporal Mohanram Dolai and Inspector Narine Lall. At the time of the incident they were just Constable Dolai and Sergeant Lall.
It was alleged that while he was in custody, Dolai and Lall, who was a Sergeant, doused the lad’s genital area with methylated spirits and set it alight. The two ranks appeared in court in November 2009, charged with burning the boy with intent to maim, disfigure, disable or cause him grievous bodily harm.
The criminal case against them was subsequently dismissed in the Magistrate’s Court after the boy and other witnesses failed to turn up.
In June 2011, the court awarded Thomas $6.5M in damages. The Attorney General was also ordered to pay $100,000 in costs, while Lall and Dulai were ordered to pay $75,000 each in costs.
The case came back to the fore last year when the Guyana Police Force published an order in January 2, 2015, that Sergeant Lall was promoted to the rank of Inspector, and Dolai to the rank of Corporal.
The ranks were subsequently dismissed from the Force under the new administration.
There have been other especially notorious cases, including the maiming of the then 19 year old Junior Thornton in 2014 and the shooting of Alex Griffith, another teen at the time, by police officers who were allegedly playing Russian roulette with the youth, while he was in custody.
These cases do not numerically scratch the surface, as complaints are made against the police on a regular basis relating to a wide range of other, less dramatic infractions.
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