Kaieteur News – The Traffic Chief (TC) in May, this year, issued the advice to traffic ranks not to stop vehicles at random to examine documents. Last week, through the Department of Public Information (DPI), the TC noted that his May statement is being manipulated by drivers.
Last week, I spoke to the TC on his DPI statement. There is a part of our conversation that all drivers need to know and I am suggesting to drivers all over Guyana to store away this column in his/her vehicle and produce it when the traffic ranks stop you at random to see your documents.
The TC said the DPI release did not fully capture the picture of random stopping. So there is double confusion. The TC said that he advised traffic cops not to stop persons for very inconsequential faults during the peak hours in the mornings and afternoons because it creates a serious back-up.
On the question of producing documents, he told me that drivers at roadblocks have to produce their items because that is an anti-crime operation and not a traffic exercise. According to the TC, the anti-crime roadblock permits the police to make the request to see your papers. But he contended that when the anti-crime personnel at the roadblocks request to seek your documents, the drivers take umbrage citing his May 2021 advice on random stops. He added that his DPI release was to inform drivers to desist from such.
Now read on this and keep this column in your glove compartment to save yourself embarrassment and to protect your right to privacy. The TC said to me after I put the question to him directly. I asked if the traffic ranks could simply stop a vehicle and ask to see the relevant papers. His answer was that such is not the policy of the Force. Once an error has been committed and you are pulled over, you have to show your papers.
Over the past 10 years, different TCs and different Commissioners have told the nation that a traffic cop should not simply wave down a vehicle and request to see your papers. The Guyana Police Force’s instruction is that a traffic cop should only stop a vehicle if a violation is observed. It is then, and only then, that the rank can ask to see the documents. The anti-crime roadblock search is a different matter altogether.
The random stop hit the headlines all over Guyana when a video went viral involving popular Berbice lawyer, Ryan Crawford and a traffic policeman. In the video, Crawford frequent use of “cuss-words” is what made the video interesting. Also, Crawford could be seen and heard asking the rank why he stopped him and the rank refused to offer him a reason.
Let me repeat with pellucid emphasis what I have written on this page several times. The police have to offer a citizen a reason for the engagement. The reason could be absurd, fictional, comical but a reason has to come out of the mouth of any police personnel. Do not be misled or do not be naive. The policeman – traffic rank or anti-crime officer – has to tell you why he/she is stopping you. If he/she refuses to tell you why, he/she is acting ultra vires.
If I was to look back at my columns over the past 10 years, I think the absurdity of random stops would probably be the topic I have written on mostly, secondly only to the harassment of working people by the commercial banks. Incidentally, since I have mentioned the commercial banks, I found out last week that the problem lies with the Central Bank.
They simply refuse to instruct the commercial banks on what documents are acceptable. For example, as proof of address, the banks do not accept certificate of vehicular fitness issued by the Police Force. Imagine that! From the Guyana Police Force! So why the banks accept police clearance certificate from the Police Force when you apply for a job at the bank? No other country in the world is as stupid as Guyana. I love this country but I hate it in the same breath. There isn’t a collective, logical, mental foundation that this country rests on.
I conclude by reminding all drivers. The TC told me last week that a random stop by a traffic cop to see your papers is not the practice of the Force. Keep this column and show the officer when he waves his hand and pulls you over and says, “papers, sir.” You will not keep this column and the ranks will continue to wave his/her hand because this country is a large living cemetery of dead, dead people.
(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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