Government says it is not worried that the police’s internal Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) is investigating Deputy Commissioner of Police for Law Enforcement, Crime Chief Lyndon Alves.
Deputy Commissioner Alves, who steps up and performs the duties of the Commissioner, Leslie James, in his absence, was sent on leave Monday following a fortnight of damning allegations of police corruption in Berbice.
Whistleblowing ranks, in shocking disclosures to Kaieteur News, gave details of colleagues taking money to protect criminals, and even on one occasion to kill a policeman who was set to give evidence in a drugs case.
Even more damning were allegations that a now dead bandit had made calls hours before his death to a senior cop in the city.
There were allegations of ranks providing protection for drug shipments; interference on police cases; and even collection of bribes.
Berbicians claimed that police ranks openly mingled with known criminals.
Alves was one of four deputies appointed last year August by President David Granger in keeping with police reforms.
The reforms were spurred by the findings of an inquiry into an alleged assassination attempt into the life of President Granger. The inquiry report recommended sweeping changes to the police force’s leadership.
Yesterday, a cautious Ministry of Public Security, Khemraj Ramjattan, acknowledged that indeed there is an investigation going on involving Alves, the Crime Chief. Alves was a former commander of Berbice, a stronghold of the Opposition.
According to the minister, the OPR is conducting the probe.
It was disclosed that it was the Commissioner of Police, Leslie James, who is the operational head of the police force, who asked that Alves be temporarily removed.
According to Ramjattan, such actions are “normal” when investigations this serious are being conducted.
If the Crime Chief is cleared, he will be back. If not, it is the President who will have to take the decisions.
The Minister said that the ongoing probe by OPR rose out of “certain allegations” in the press.
The Minister did not explain what those allegations were.
OPR will have to take statements and then send those for legal advice.
Ramjattan declined to say whether the current Berbice commander, Paul Langevine, is affected by the current probe by OPR.
Asked specifically if he was comfortable with the OPR investigating such a high profile case, the Minister said yes.
“Given the gravity, I am very comfortable with OPR, because who you want us to put?”
He said that whoever investigates, there will always be criticisms.
“People will have trouble with anybody, but we have to build institutions in Guyana to the extent of letting them get integrity and reputation, and unless we start doing that, nothing will grow in Guyana, because people say…well…police looking after themselves. If you take that suspect position, then all police investigations are suspect, and so institutionally we will never grow as a nation.”
The Minister stressed that OPR has conducted hundreds and hundreds investigation of police ranks over the years. “…and they have all been respected because they all can be analysed. They take their statements, their statements are there. They then write their recommendations, and it goes for advice. So that is the first place you start. You do not want to… What you want to call a CARICOM commission to come in? Please…I want reporters to be a little more responsible when they are making suggestions.”
The Minister said that if there is information of egregious conduct, it is investigated, “that is what you do in every police force. We have everything in control, and even he who is at the highest, when they misbehave, we are going to investigate.”
Alves’s sensitive position as Crime Chief with access of security matters had raised alarms after the allegations came out. Earlier this year, there were reports that he was due to retire since January, but Alves insisted that he will not be 55 until next year.
The private sector in Berbice and regional officials recently called for an investigation into a spate of crimes in that eastern county.
On Monday, the People’s Progressive Party, as the opposition, called for a separate, independent probe.
Last August, during the swearing in ceremony of the new commissioner and his deputies, the President urged them to ensure that they work vigorously not only to fulfil the mandate of the Guyana Police Force, but also to root out corruption and rebuild and regain public trust.
“Unless those officers are persons of integrity, intelligence and impartiality, this country will never be secure and our women and children will never be safe. This country cannot move forward unless the Guyana Police Force preserves the environment, the peace and security of the State and the people to allow us all to go about our work without being harassed, without being threatened.”
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