Luncheon dismisses calls to scrap `Black Clothes Police'
Guyana Chronicle
April 11, 2002

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`...if there were a force with the training, experience, equipment and such like, other than the Target Squad to (recapture the bandits), I would like to be so informed' - Dr. Roger Luncheon
SECRETARY to the Defence Board, Dr. Roger Luncheon yesterday dismissed calls by the main Opposition PNC Reform (PNC/R) to scrap the Special Police Anti-Crime Unit (Target Squad), popularly called the `Black Clothes Police'.

He pointed out that in terms of its training, experience and equipment, the unit is the most suited to the committed and joint efforts to recapture the killer gang of escaped prisoners.

Luncheon said this "ludicrous suggestion" by the PNC/R for the unit to be stood down contrasts markedly with what seems to be a different agenda by the Opposition party.

"I said ludicrous because it is quite clear that the primary focus of the law enforcement agencies right now in controlling crime is to recapture the armed bandits and if there were a force with the training, experience, equipment and such like, other than the Target Squad to do that, I would like to be so informed," he said.

According to Luncheon, the law enforcement agencies ensured the successful completion of the three-day Third Caribbean/United Kingdom Forum last week in terms of the non-perpetration of criminal activities during the high-level caucus held at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown.

Luncheon, also Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Presidential Secretariat, told his weekly news conference at the Office of the President that Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj presented Cabinet when it met Tuesday with an updated report of the activities of the Task Force comprising members of the Joint Services.

The Task Force is made up of members of the Police Force, the Guyana Defence Force, the Guyana Prison Service and the Guyana Fire Service, who are working in collaboration to capture the five armed and very dangerous criminals who escaped from the Georgetown Prison on February 23 last.

Luncheon also noted that based on this updated report from Gajraj, the Joint Services have created a "more secure climate" for the first cricket test match between the West Indies and India starting at the famous Bourda ground in Georgetown today.

At a previous media briefing, Luncheon had told reporters that it will "definitely not be business as usual any more" in the manhunt for the fugitives, as the Government had intensified its resolve to apprehend the five escapees - Andrew Douglas, Mark Fraser, Dale Moore, Troy Dick and Shawn Brown.

The gang has been linked to a series of criminal activities, including robbery under arms, car hijacking and murder.

Superintendent Leon Fraser, a top-anti-crime cop and senior member of the `Black Clothes' Police, was killed last week Tuesday as he and other members of the unit approached an abandoned vehicle hidden among bushes in the Yarowkabra area, on the Linden-Soesdyke highway. Police have linked members of the gang to the killing.

Fraser, shot in the head, was the second murder victim of the gang which also killed Prison Officer Troy Williams, 21, when it broke out of the Georgetown Prison. One of the five also shot Woman Prison Officer, Roxanne Whinfield, 36, in the head as they fled and she remains critically wounded in the Georgetown Hospital.

The five are linked to the notorious 'Blackie' criminal gang, led by Linden 'Blackie' London who was shot dead when he was cornered in a Police-Army operation in an Eccles, East Bank Demerara guest house in February 1999.

Luncheon yesterday reassured that the Joint Task Force was "actively involved in the search" for the escapees. He said this collaborative move will also enhance the capability of the law enforcement agencies in terms of manpower.

He said the Army is providing assistance in the search for the wanted men by being on the lookout for clues in remote areas, include Guyana's borders.

"There will also be an increase in the number of special units that have been deployed in the various regions to maintain a state of preparedness to detect and apprehend the five criminals," Luncheon said.

The Joint Services are of the opinion that this is "an extremely dangerous gang and that citizens should be on the alert, cautious and sensitive to the need for increased security", Luncheon reported.

He said the Heads of the Joint Services have recommended that business owners strengthen security measures at both their places of business and their homes.

He said, too, that providers of public transportation, especially hire car drivers, are being asked to "be on the alert". Luncheon also urged that suspicious activities be reported quickly, particularly group criminal activities and car thefts.

Much emphasis will also be placed on security at the Camp Street prison in Georgetown, he added.

He said the work of the "intelligence agencies and the crime scene investigators had led to attempts at an early morning arrest of a suspect in Buxton". He noted that the suspect, Shaka Blair, was unfortunately shot dead by Police when they attempted to arrest the ex-soldier.

" does appear that well informed citizens and the prompt and vigorous law enforcement responses minimise the extent of lawlessness in the surrounding communities," he said.

Luncheon, however, pointed out that unbalanced reporting by some television/media personalities which sought to criminalise the Police and condemn the governing People's Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) for allegedly implementing and supporting extra-judicial killings of black males by the police, continues unabated.

The PNC/R is again "publicly making its usual attempt at creating political mileage out of the matter and in so doing, exposed again, the weakness of their thinking and reactions to such issues", he argued.

Luncheon reported that Cabinet on Tuesday was advised about the "significantly different demeanor" by the PNC/R delegation that met Commissioner of Police, Mr. Floyd McDonald and the Home Affairs Minister, as a consequence of that party's Central Executive instructions.

The Opposition party Tuesday organised a march in Georgetown to protest Blair's death.