By Leonard Gildarie
The life of the reporter has evolved considerably. Social media and other online activities have brought news literally to the fingertips. News is breaking all the time, with every citizen with a smart phone and internet along with a reporter.
Part of the duties of a reporter is scanning social media to remain aware of what is trending.
During the week, Facebook especially was abuzz with videos of two sisters in a Berbice police outpost. I initially viewed the videos and smiled. Two women allegedly caught drinking and misbehaving.
However, what has evolved is deeply worrying and Guyana should be ashamed. I took a second and third look at the three videos and the story that emerged is not funny, by any means.
The two sisters are before the courts now, slapped with several charges.
One is accused of damaging the cell phone of a policeman while the other is charged with dangerous driving resulting in an accident; failing to stop after an accident, failure to report the accident, resisting arrest, disorderly behaviour and assaulting a female Constable at the Rose Hall Town outpost.
Quite a long read.
One of the sisters claimed she was assaulted by a police rank in the outpost.
Police had issued a swift statement the night the video went viral. We will not discuss the details of what happened at the outpost. The world has seen it. In any case, the matters are before the court.
In fact, I am told, more than 750,000 views were generated from the videos.
However, we cannot leave the other matters alone.
Guyana gleefully zeroed in on the women and laughed.
I received a number of calls…some persons found it funny. A few others were angry.
Me…I am not happy with how the situation went downhill.
The motto of the Guyana Police Force is ‘Service and Protection’.
Do we really understand what that means? My father was a policeman killed in the line of duty. I grew up understanding what it meant.
We see photos of policemen tying the shoelaces of children or leading them across the road.
It is how I believe it should be.
In a police outpost earlier this week, three videos purportedly taken by a police rank were uploaded to social media. Within hours of the three videos making it online and going viral, police announced charges for the sisters.
The police statement was devoid of mention of any investigations of those videos.
Is there any interest who made them? For what purpose (s)? Is it standard operating procedure of police to video suspects who are sitting on the bench or waiting to be processed? If so, for what purpose (s)?
If the answer is no, what then was the purpose of those uploads?
One should ask the Commander of Berbice, Calvin Brutus, whether an investigation has been launched. Mr. Brutus, I am told, is a straight-up commander.
The police force is filled with decent men and women. I know. I speak with them often.
The Commissioner, Leslie James, is a disciplined, steady individual. I spoke to Deputy Commissioner, Maxine Graham, for the first time a few days ago. She was performing the duties of Commissioner Leslie James. She is respectful.
Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken is another senior cop whom I have engaged – he strikes me as capable.
There are many ranks who are similarly inclined and I deeply respect their work under conditions that are not friendly and many times hostile. There are many rogue elements too.
I believe that the Police Force, the Guyana Power and Light Inc. and the Guyana Telephone and Telegraph Company, top the list as the entities with the most criticisms from citizens.
The fact is that under no circumstances should the police tolerate disrespect of the Force, as was seen in the videos. The behaviour was unacceptable.
However, I am interested also in the trigger leading up to the time when the videos were made. What transpired that led to the women behaving in that manner?
If it is standard operation procedure now, the police should make it clear.
I am sure the lawyers would have a field day when it comes to the rights of persons accused of a crime and have not been proven to have done same – for videos to be made in the station and uploaded without permission of those accused.
There are a number of other factors in the case that should worry.
For example, one of the women is a said to be a popular Berbice singer at the mandirs.
In fact, she is sought after at events. She was the centre of news where a pandit is being accused of rape.
Fast-forward to this past week, Guyana went on a bashing spree on what is clearly one woman who needs counseling.
I fail to hear the voices of our Hindu leaders. I fail to hear statements from our women’s groups.
Churches, Mandirs and Mosques are not once-a-week events. There is supposed to be a safety net for members.
As a developing nation, our maturity and adherence to rules and laws will be what distinguishes us from the rest of the pack.
We gleefully rubbed our hands in delight at the antics of the two women. We did not pause and wonder about their mental state and capacity. Our politicians and women’s rights groups kept silent.
Again, I insist, there can be no excuse for the behaviour as depicted in those videos.
The police must also be continued to be reminded that their oath is to serve and protect.
There will be no middle ground. It is simple…I…we need the Police Force to up its game and be professional.
By the same token, our religious bodies need to be prodded into action, to awaken from the slumber they have fallen into. There is also a social responsibility.
I see two women, could be my sisters, who are calling for help.
I see two women who are a reflection of the mindset of a large portion of our society.
It is a fact.
There are two or three of four sides to every story. As of now, the conclusions are that as a people, as good people, we dropped the ball on this one, badly. That is not who we are.
(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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