Police Force begins consultations with NGOs
Guyana Chronicle
July 13, 2002

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THE Guyana Police Force (GPF) this week embarked on the first in a series of consultations with representatives of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and youth groups in its quest to establish a partnership with critical stakeholders.

At the forum Thursday, Police Commissioner (Acting) Floyd McDonald met representatives of Red Thread, Help & Shelter, Food for the Poor, the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), the Lions Club and the Women's Progressive Organisation (WPO).

Discussions were held in an open, frank and cordial atmosphere with representatives venting their concerns and making suggestions to improve policing in Guyana.

In his remarks, the Police Commissioner said the views of the participants "are critical because they represent a large number of persons".

The current reform programme being implemented by the Force should reflect the views of the populace, Mr. McDonald said. Consequently, similar consultations will be held in other regions of the country.

He emphasised that the Police cannot deal with the present situation in isolation and that the support of the community was essential.

The Police Force was also conscious of the political environment in which it has to operate. As such, he said, the Police Force always strives to operate in a professional manner, distancing itself from political biases.

The Commissioner noted, however, that the members of the GPF are products of the society and this fact makes it more difficult for the Force to nurture and inculcate the right type of characteristics that are required of law enforcement officers.

The aim of the reform process is to create a people-friendly organisation and provide a high quality of service, McDonald pointed out.

"We are here to serve the people. We do not want to be seen as masters," he declared. He added that the Police would always strive to do what is consistent with societal aspirations.

Touching on the incident on Wednesday, when protesters ran amok unleashing violence and storming the Office of the President resulting in the death of two persons and the wounding of eight others, the Commissioner said the way the Police handled such situations would always be controversial because certain situations require spontaneous action. Responses are based on analysis, which is based on the information available, he said.

"The incidents are unfortunate. But we were stretched to the limits on that day," he recollected.

Among the concerns raised by participants at the forum were, improved salaries, inadequate patrols and low Police visibility, inability of members of GPF to read and write properly, poor training of Police officers, poor handling of cases of domestic violence, and extra-judicial killings.

On the issue of improved salaries, the Commissioner said he agreed that salaries should be improved, but he also observed that the situation has to be viewed in terms of resources, which are limited and consequently, will have to be addressed over a period of time.

Dealing with concerns of inadequate patrols and Police presence, the Commissioner said the matter is being addressed with funds that have been released to obtain more vehicles, some of which have already been acquired.

McDonald conceded that there is a deficiency in reading and writing skills in the GPF and said that teachers have been recruited to teach language skills at the Police colleges. A system of refresher courses has been instituted so as to ensure members of the Police Force are conversant with methods of law enforcement, he said.

On the issue of the poor manner in which Police handle cases of domestic violence and child abuse the Commissioner agreed that the GPF needs more trained personnel in this area. He welcomed the training offers made to the Force by organisations that have the expertise in this area.

Participants suggested that Domestic Violence Units should be established in all Police divisions rather than only in Georgetown. To this suggestion, the Commissioner responded favourably.

The GPF is seriously addressing the concerns about allegations of extra-judicial killings, the Commissioner said, and he pointed out that at present there are several inquests ongoing.

It was also suggested that in order to enhance community support for the Police, that the GPF reintroduce the award scheme for public spiritedness which was in effect sometime ago. The Commissioner said he would look into the feasibility of reintroducing the scheme.

Responding to a criticism on spending to beef up the Public Relations Department of the GPF, the Commissioner said the intention was to provide the media and the public with more timely information on the operations of the Police Force. He categorically denied that the intention is to provide "cover ups" for the GPF.

"The Public Relations Department is not a propaganda machine," the Commissioner stated. (CHAMANLALL NAIPAUL)