Based on newspaper reports in September 2015 of a high-speed vehicle chase of three armed suspects in south Georgetown by the police (the Joint Special Operations Group- JSOG), I asked the question “What are the rules of engagement for the police pursuing escaping suspects?” (Letter to the Editor, SN 08-09-2015). The concerns informing the question were amplified in the following edition of SN in a letter by Patrick E. Mentore, titled “The police need to have a clearly defined vehicle pursuit policy”.
I did not see a response from the police and the matter faded from public view. Two subsequent incidents, however, raise these concerns again, and with increasing alarm: the first occurred only a few months after the JSOG’s hot pursuit of suspects in south Georgetown. It involved the high-speed chase on December 2015 through the streets of Georgetown by SOCU officer Robert Pyle that ended up in a two-vehicle collision on Carifesta Avenue, taking the lives of three persons.
The second occurred just last week, when Ms Jean Rodrigues was accidentally shot (thankfully, not fatally) at the Timehri bus park during a foot chase of a suspect by a police rank in which it is being said the police fired his weapon.
It takes little imagination to realise that the hot pursuit of suspects by police, whether in a vehicle or by foot, puts the public in immense danger through vehicle collisions or wayward shooting. I had therefore asked in my letter last year such questions as “When is a police vehicle chase in Guyana a reasonable course of action?” and “When is the discharge of a firearm by police accepted as a necessary and proportionate response in such a chase?” I had suggested (and Mr Mentore also, separately) several answers and guidelines to these questions based on police practices elsewhere.
Two such practices, I dare say, would have saved the lives of Sergeant Pyle, his wife, and Mr Eastman (driver of the second vehicle on Carifesta Avenue) had the rules been known and observed. These are (i) when the immediate danger to the public created by the pursuit is greater than the immediate or potential danger to the public should the suspect remain at large, then the pursuit should be discontinued or terminated, and (ii) pursuits should usually be discontinued when the violator’s identity has been established to the point that later apprehension can be accomplished without danger to the public. Our police have ramped up their public relations in the last several weeks. Maybe, they will now respond to these public concerns.
Editor’s note; we altered a few words in this letter because the ballistic test to determine if the police did the shooting has been made public as yet on the Stabroek area incident
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