Dec 01, 2021 Letters
Kaieteur News – Coming out of the police “Inaugural Integrity in Policing Symposium” is a statement by the Top Cop, Nigel Hoppie that the police will raise the educational qualifying level requirement for entry in the Police Force from sound primary to sound secondary.
The Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn concurred with the proposal and said that it will be implemented soon. No reason was given for this paradigm shift. Some of the vexed questions are “Is it that the Guyana Police Force will deny young, honest and ambitious Guyanese who do not have a sound secondary education the opportunity to serve in the GPF? Is it that late developers will not have a chance to join the GPF because they were not exposed to a sound secondary education? Is it that numerous persons like Paul Slowe who never attended secondary school but who joined the GPF with their birth certificates, became very senior officers, received national awards and left the Force with university degrees will no longer be given the opportunity to join the GPF and make an excellent contribution to their beloved country? How will the Force cater for the large number of human resources required to deal with the current economic boom, massive influx of non-Guyanese, drug trafficking, trafficking in person, marine and air capabilities, and other major challenges identified in the Strategic Plan submitted by Capita Symonds a few years ago? Will the system produce better quality recruits?”
On a personal note, if the proposed change was in place in 1973, I would not have had the wonderful opportunity to join the GPF and served for 39 continuous years and retired as an Assistant Commissioner of Police, as when I was enlisted in the GPF, I only had a primary education.
In response to the proposed pending change in the entry level for persons wanting to become members of the GPF, here is what former Chairman of the Police Service Commission and retired Assistant Commissioner of Police, Paul Slowe posited in the social media, “While I am in full agreement that the entry level in the Guyana Police Force should not only be a sound secondary education, the impression created by the statements was that if the entry level for joining the Guyana Police Force be changed from sound primary to sound secondary, that by itself would result in better policemen/ policewomen and commensurate better service to the people of Guyana. I beg to differ.” Slowe further opined, that if a better quality of policemen/ policewomen is to be achieved with concomitant better service, what would be required is not only a change in the academic entry requirement, but a change in the culture of the organisation.
He concluded that from his vantage point, “The current organisation culture of the Guyana Police Force is characterised by corruption, indiscipline, unprofessionalism, misplaced hubris, arrogance, poor leadership, ignorance of applicable law and regulations and a willingness on the part of many senior officers to sing for their supper and to seek political patronage.”
In other words, the present culture can be described as poisonous and corrosive. In such situation, the many honest, dedicated and hardworking ranks can be overwhelmed, and any newcomer into such environment will just ‘ Fall In And Cover Down.’
What the Guyana Police Force needs is a new breed of ranks – a balance between brawn and brains – who possess not only the physical qualities traditionally associated with policing, such as strength and endurance, but also the emotional and intellectual characteristics needed to effect public order in an ever changing and diverse society. “People Skills” have become a critical tool for law enforcement. It is a sine qua non. In addition, according to William Bratton (2001) who along with Mayor Rudy Giuliani developed and implemented ComptStat Model of Policing that reduced crime in New York to an unbelievable level, “We need individuals who see policing as a calling, not just a job; who see the community as a partner, not as a problem; and who can be trusted to enforce the law without violating it themselves.” He was writing for the United States of America but his words are applicable for Guyana and moreso, the Guyana Police Force.
These issues must be addressed during the recruitment process as behaviour is the major phenomenon that the police must deal with in order to build public trust and confidence.
In accordance with the present recruitment system, an applicant who has passed the entrance examination; successfully completed a series of medical examinations including drugs tests: is cleared by the Criminal Records Office and the Police Special Branch; has a favourable report from the Regional Police Division where he/she resides and successfully completes an interview for selection will be automatically sworn as a member of the Force.
Here is where the problem lies as behaviour is not addressed during the selection process. Psychopaths can easily slip into the Police Force. Applicants with unethical and serious psychological traits are easily recruited into the Force. What is required is for the police as part of the recruitment strategy to establish Assessment Centres. They are nothing new. Both the Allies and Axis used them to train their spies. An assessment centre is a place where applicants go through a series of events or exercises under the watchful eyes of trained assessors to among other things look for unethical and psychological behaviour traits. It is straightforward, it is based on commonsense, and it can be applied in any employment context. Tinsley (2002) contends, “The assessment centre was – and still is – one of the best methods available for selecting suitable candidates for either employment or advancement in law enforcement agencies.” It will result in a better quality person joining the Force but in reduced numbers as those who displayed unacceptable behaviour will be weeded out.
Several years ago, while on a British sponsored attachment as a resource person with the Jamaica Constabulary Staff College at Spanish Town, Jamaica participated in several assessment centres. At one of the sessions, there was an applicant who had a degree from the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. Although he was highly academically qualified for the job, he displayed some psychopathic behaviour. Quite rightly, he was not selected for enlistment in the Constabulary. Francis Forbes who was in charge of the College and who became a Commissioner of Police commented, “Him can come from Mona, UWI with him honour degree but if him a wan psycho, him can’t be a police.”
In closing, let me be pellucid, the selection process of the GPF should emphasize the skills and characteristics for community police officers – communication, problem solving, decision-making, empathy and the ability to successfully interact with members of the multi-cultural and diverse communities.
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