Our police, their DEA
By A.A Fenty
March 28, 2003
I could not dismiss the correspondence by Joseph B Collins printed a few days ago in the Stabroek. It was indeed a harsh, critical piece, which, whilst making many telling and fundamental points about the very concept of policing, contained some of the most scathing condemnations of the make-up and modus operandi of the Guyana Police Force published recently.
Then, perhaps expectedly, came a spirited if dutiful response and defence from the local force in the name of Assistant Superintendent Ramnarine. The Police Public Relations and Press Officer rejected many of Mr Collin's published instances of seeming malice, insensitivity and general ridicule with respect to the alleged intelligence levels, literacy and attitudes of most of our local cops.
A few months before he passed on, Desmond Hoyte wrote that "... We have, in this country, a great proclivity for fooling ourselves." And that was just one of his observations I'm always persuaded to agree with. So, my only reason for commenting on the Collins-Ramnarine exchange is to advise all interested - or concerned - parties not to attempt to fool or seduce ourselves. The fact is that both gentlemen have "prosecuted" their cases, offence and defence, quite admirably. To me, the truth lies right inbetween their two positions. Generally our police force right now leaves a lot to be desired and is below the standards required of such a crucial public/social institution (Collins).
But Ramnarine, like Lloyd Barker years before him, is persuasively accurate too: members of today's force are products of today's imperfect society, that same society which expects "miracles" from them (Ramnarine). With its limited capacities and resources, the GPF is nevertheless striving to improve and indeed, to perform itself. President Jagdeo, Minister Gajraj, the acting Commissioner and the Commissioner-in-waiting have all committed to reform. But it seems we are a little too dependent on our donor-advisors from abroad. And because I suspect that the Correspondent Collins is not at all, all negative-oriented about the force, I urge him, like others have advised, to approach the force to offer assistance.
For this Mr Collins has a great grasp of what the concepts of modern public policing and the formalisation of social control demand and are characterized by. In case you missed his "backgrounding" - before he went on to denigrate too many of the not-so-intellectual-but-sincere members of the force - (I'm a little shy to repeat Mr Collin's adjectives) - let me share just a few of his contextual thoughts with you.
Speaking of the past thirteen months, Collins records: "For a protracted period of time, these criminals remained defiant and unvanquished, as they rained a blanket of terror on the landscape. A year of random criminality and criminal violence impacted disproportionately on In-dians, and African policemen. The GPF came under immense public pressure to control the spiralling crime rate. Under such pressure, their response was indiscriminately retaliatory. Instead of arresting and processing for prosecution, the GPF adopted an unofficial shoot-to-kill policy; one of the features of the highly contentious and controversial conflict model of policing.
"The front-end of our criminal justice system is largely managed by men and women who are unsuitable to deal with the challenges of post-modern policing. Individuals will be individuals, but I must state that on average, our policemen and women lack the necessary attributes required by those whose functions are to be equipped, to be entitled, and be required to deal with every exigency in which social order is threatened, and in which force may be used."
In his well-presented, sometimes dismissive, essay, Collins goes on to expound on post-modern policing and other relevant issues. I have to part company with him when he indicts the whole force for "state-sponsored thuggery." That resonates of political rhetoric as it relates to the hundreds of good, hard-working policemen who are not Collins' intellectual peers. In that regard, I appreciated Ramnarine's comeback about the "commonsense/constructive ideas" levels of the policemen of old who nevertheless performed effectively.
Of course, the Assistant Superintendent would be the first to place those abilities in their bygone perspectives. He did outline the force's gallant efforts to recruit, equip and improve - where policemen's academics are concerned. Even Mr Collins can see (already) what would be the consequences of having no force at all in this little Hick Town. Yes, I'm aware that an ill-equipped, intellectually- deprived and/or corrupt force could very well contribute to the complete destruction of our "social order." Our force is still not close to being at that level yet. By and large. Mr Collins, rather, scrutinize certain ambitious politicians.
The DEA in town
Then there is this two million dollar reward for information leading to the arrest of "persons involved" in the murder of the late Deputy Head of the Customs Anti-Narcotics Unit (CANU), Mr Vibert Inniss. I had immediately welcomed the involvement of the American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in this collaborative effort to nab these executioners, especially as the Americans have warned us that: "The US Embassy considers this case extremely important in curbing the scourge of illegal drugs transshipping throughout the Caribbean."
Remarkable, isn't that? The DEA, anxious to stem the flow of illegal drugs to the vast lucrative American markets, wants to "bring to the criminal justice system" of our "competent jurisdiction" any individual(s) or organisations involved in the regional narco-trade. Remarkable. The DEA is in the house. But will it help significantly?
Well, my knowledgeables tell me that our narco-traffickers are as graduated and professional as the barons anywhere else. The fellas tell me that the DEA really doesn't have to actually pay over the reward, if their criteria - or any solid arrests - are not met or made. But you could imagine the info-/intelligence they stand a chance of gathering, as some involved seek to collect. Which reminds me of the information once revealed to me, that the Canadians were allegedly quite upset with top local police a few years ago. Why? Because, allegedly, the local fellows never bothered to use the solid intelligence and evidence given to them - by the Canadians - that could have ensnared quite a few "Executives" involved in Back-Tracking, Money Laundering etc. Wonder why was that?
War in my bedroom
Hope you haven't become like me, over the past ten days. I am now an overseas, TV distance student of modern warfare. I'm generally pro-American, anti-tyrannical Saddam and anti-terrorist. But leaving aside the justness of the war; the rights and wrongs, I marvel at what the Americans have and could spend. I am ambivalent about the role of the embedded journalists. I am impatient with the morality-in-war expected of the Americans in relation to the military/ terrorist freedom of Saddam or bin Laden to do and bomb wherever or whatever they wish. And I marvel at the instant numbers of anti-American, anti-war Guyanese I now encounter. War is no answer, is their message. America is a Bully, they charge.
I disagree. But I must hold my peace (?) and pen for now. I see the US shows the UN what it thinks of it. As I see the makings of new terrorists, I wish I was younger to fight them. Instead, I become an armchair general - nay, armchair commander and write down notes and terms in my new War Students Handbook.
Shock and awe, target of opportunity, precision-guided munitions and applications, strategic reconnaissance, sensitive-site explorations, Tomahawk guided cruise missiles (from the carriers), laser-guided missiles (from the planes), Warthogs, Apaches and Black Hawks, decapitation, RPG's, degraded air de-fences, infra-red night goggles, tracer bullets, MRE's (Meals Ready to Eat) and about forty other warfare terms.
Now that the vocabulary is expanded, what should I do about the war? Not be frivolous about it. We have enough senseless loss of life here - to stomach more anywhere.
Peace and security
1) So modern warfare - if you have what the Americans have - demands that you target only military locations. No "civilians" must die.
2) Would the war have been "gentler, kinder" if it had UN blessings and sanctions?
3) The journalist pleased me with his assessment: You have to admire Tony Blair's sincerity and his almost proselytising zeal. His courage in the face of imminent political suicide. That's a man!
4) Capital Enrico, Capital! Your first slant on the Hamilton Buxton Execution. Still didn't fool me.
5) Criminal-control: No freed kidnap victim dare assist the police!
6) Lighter Note? Please dig little holes in Bourda. And the drainage trenches around the ground. And get huge covers on wheels. Then use obeah or prayers to beat the tired Awesome Australians.
' Til next week!