The police rank who abused the Minister of Business on the ferry last week will probably be severely chastised or even suspended, because he was hostile to a minister of government. But think of how many times in each day of each year, police ranks have harassed and mistreated the ordinary citizens of this country.
What has each Home Affairs Minister learnt since Independence about the police force? There is a story I have heard since I was a little boy about the localized market, the sugar industry and the police force. It goes like this. Each has its own sub-culture and it will never change. One just has to live with it, because that is how market people, the sugar industry and police attitude are.
I grew up and came to see that reality for myself. Any market you go to – in Berbice, Georgetown, Parika etc., market people have a certain style and behavioural pattern. It was the same on any sugar estate. It is the same with policemen. But the similarity ends there.
The sugar industry is gone. A substantial number of people do not interact with market folks. They go to the supermarkets. The last time I went to the fish ponds of Bourda market was December last year. But police culture affects the entire nation. The incident with the business minister was loud music emanating from the rank’s car. The minister spoke to him, pointing out the disturbing effects it had on other persons in the ferry. The minister then received what countless Guyanese endure in this country.
If there is a police culture that is not in keeping with civilized norms in Guyana and it is a hardened nut to crack, then politicians cannot ask for people’s vote then throw their hands up in despair and exclaim after they win power that this is how the police are, and it is not easy to get them to change.
In terms of human behaviour and the dynamics that drive human thinking, this explanation is nonsense. There is nothing in the mentality of leadership that cannot change the erring, illegal, unacceptable ways of police behaviour in Guyana.
For ruling politicians to say there is an unchanging police culture that is not easy to control is immoral deception. Leadership and obligation are the mechanism that can be used to change misconduct in the abuse of authority by lesser officials.
Ruling politicians (and this includes both PPP and APNU+AFC governments) are lying when they point to bad police conduct that cannot be easily eradicated. They simply do not want to confront the problem. What will never appear in the repertoire of columns from me anymore is the impropriety of random stops by traffic cops.
I have written so many times of that unorthodoxy that I have become truly disgusted with the failure of senior police officers and ruling politicians to stop it. They do not want to stop it. They can, but they are just not interested. I see random stops almost on a daily basis, in which traffic ranks push out their hand, stop drivers and request their documents. No reason is given for intercepting the vehicle. What is so intractable about this action that it cannot be eradicated?
The business minister had a taste of what ordinary folks go through. Unfortunately Ryan Crawford lost his temper and in the process lost his advantageous position. The rank had to offer him a reason for bringing the vehicle to a halt.
Once he didn’t offer a reason, Crawford should have remained silent, turned on the television monitor in his car and stayed there indefinitely. If a call was made to tow him away, he should have accepted that and fought for his rights. Instead, he cussed down and got six charges. The police rank was never disciplined for failing to offer Crawford a reason for stopping him.
The story of the business minister and the police in the ferry is over. This very minister will go about his work in relation to his portfolio and will not lift a finger in the future to bring about changes in the police force.
I am assuming, though I admit I may be wrong, that he will argue that his jurisdiction in government is finance, commerce and business, and it is for the relevant ministers (Ramjattan and the President (Lil Joe is no longer second in command though he is de facto second) to deal with improper police conduct. If the minister argues this way he is wrong. He is a Cabinet member that has the power to change the way state authority is being abused.
(The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper)
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