By Leonard Gildarie
So once again, we are back with the police in the spotlight. And once again, it is not good news.
There is a new Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, and the little interactions that I have had with him, have left some lasting impressions- he is a no-nonsense man.
I believe that he has been given a police force that is at the crossroads. There have been strides in recent years concerning the force. There is more training and a number of high profile cases are being cracked.
But there is an uphill task ahead that no one has been able to tackle- trust in our force. We have not found the answers, yet.
I read yesterday in Kaieteur News of the arrest of a schoolboy for the murder of an East Coast Demerara pensioner. The man was found in his yard, bludgeoned to death.
While no charges have been laid yet, and one is innocent until proven guilty, it appears that the sleuths have gotten their man, or boy in this case. It would have been diligent police work. Intelligence-driven, perhaps?
We have written about this before and I have been called by a number of persons in authority who disagree that there are any perceptible shifts in the performance of the police.
I stuck to my guns.
On Thursday evening, a young police rank posted a video of what seems to be a traffic stop on the East Coast of Demerara.
The stop happened on a stretch of road that I am sure had no police station. The police rank appeared to be alone.
The car he stopped was a BMW sedan, PNN series. There were two occupants.
On the video, the occupant identified himself as Ryan Crawford. It was the first time that I heard of him. The almost four minute video, filled with expletives, revealed that the rank pulled the car over and when asked by Crawford, who identified himself as a lawyer, said that he could not see the driver.
Crawford, however, dismissed that reason, saying that could not be the reason as he was behind two trucks and therefore that issue could not have arisen.
During the video, apparently made by the police rank, the lawyer was highly upset, refusing to hand over his documents. He wanted to know the reason why the rank stopped him.
He also refused to wind up his window for the rank to “check” the tint level.
The video was filled with expletives from the lawyer who stressed that the rank must explain his reason for the stop as he did nothing wrong that would warrant the stop.
The rank made no headway and the lawyer drove away.
The rank posted the video, expletives and all, on his Facebook page.
There are several things that are wrong about this picture.
I am not sure what the police’s standing orders say, but I am sure that lone ranks on a lonely roadway are not being encouraged to stop a car asking for documents.
It is standard operating procedures that ranks have backups.
According to the police’s Public Relations Officer, Jairam Ramlackhan, all police have the right to stop, search and detain. But there must be reasonable suspicion and probable cause- two important elements.
The rank did say he could not “observe” the driver.
Assuming he could not, I submit humbly that we need some training. All ranks should be familiar with the relevant sections of the law. It is not hard. If every day you are stopping folks for something or the other, you have to know what you are charging them with.
It is like working at a newspaper. You have to read it and be familiar with current affairs.
The police are looking to take a statement from the lawyer, with a view of asking for legal advice for possible charges.
However, the new commissioner would be all too familiar with the anger of the popular and distrust that grew over the years.
It is a fact there are many decent policemen and women in the force. Again, I say also that there are quite a few rotten ones. They need to be weeded out.
Many of them own vehicles that are heavily tinted. Many of them own minibuses and taxis on the road.
Nothing is wrong with the latter, unless these tinted vehicles are being used for work purposes.
The Ministry of Public Security has committed to reviewing this complaint of the ridiculous tints on the vehicles of police ranks. A few of the tints are even on the windscreen.
There were two deadly accidents involving police officers in the past month…did the tints play a role, in addition to alcohol?
Many of the minibuses are not being stopped and it is frightening to see what they are doing on the roads. They operate above the law, Mr. Commissioner.
It is also common knowledge that some ranks are happy to be posted to the traffic section. It is where monies are being made. There are daily targets to be met and everybody is involved in shakedowns, which is tantamount to mafias operating in the force.
The incident that occurred on Thursday and the behaviour of Mr. Crawford is by no way an acceptable one.
There are certain codes that all professionals should abide by. Knowing the rank was videoing the stop have compounded Mr. Crawford’s woes.
However, credit must be given to a light-hearted apology, sort of, that the lawyer posted on his Facebook page yesterday.
Wondering if BMW should pay him for the advertisement, the lawyer said that his son is upset over the expletives on the videos “and I will accept I was wrong for the choice of words”.
He signed off as Ryan F. Crawford. Not sure if that is deliberate.
But it is a start Mr. Crawford. We all have our responsibilities.
Concerning the police force, the new Commissioner has to make the policies regarding stop and search and asking for documents. It is becoming intolerable.
The police in January 2016, had issued a statement saying that “traffic ranks are not authorised to stop motorists for routine checks of documents. They should only do so if an offence is committed in their view or where there is reasonable suspicion.”
The Police Force also said that “its policy is that police ranks in plain clothes and in unmarked vehicles are not authorised to stop motorists except when they are performing duties on the roadway in front of a Police Station.”
We have a beautiful country. The country can only improve if there are laws that must be adhered to.
There are rules of engagement. We cannot have our citizens disrespecting our police; we also cannot condone our police harassing our people. If the job does not pay, leave. It is simple. It is time we start building the trust in our police force.
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