The benefit of the doubt
August 4, 2003
THE general feeling across the globe seems to be that people don't particularly like government.
They know that government transcends the borders of human existence, look to government for almost every facet of service and vote for a party which they believe is most likely to facilitate their pursuit of happiness.
Yet, they resent the very word or term, "government."
As the law enforcement branch of government, the police more often than not suffer from that negative labeling. This is particularly true in cases where rogue cops denigrate the name of the entire force, and where the police are specifically demonized by political parties, or any organization for that matter that cannot manipulate the force to partisan advantage.
That's the dilemma the Guyana Police Force faces. Even after its successful cordon-and-search operations with the Guyana Defense Force in Buxton, the Police Force has a long way to regain public credibility from the battering it got from the Government's rivals before the Buxton operations materialized.
The latest is the shooting to death of the Ron and Lennox Baker on Emancipation morning.
Mrs. Edna Baker has concluded that the police were involved in her sons' death, and media reports generally mirrored that conclusion, even in the absence of pellucid evidence or before the determination of investigations into the incident.
Amid the crime wave that lashed into the sinews of our society, the police took the brunt of the blame for the wave, both because of the lack of fast-action results and because some sections of society decided that those who were perpetrating the crimes were "resistance-" or "freedom fighters" opposing a parody of deprivation, and not criminals.
The police sought even then to forge a genuine partnership among community groups and probable victims of violence.
Available statistics show that the police have been receiving fair public responses, receiving vital tips on drug pushing/using, robbery/hold-up, rape, and murder cases that help to apprehend suspects far more frequently than previously.
The fear in the media reports on the Baker killings could damage the credibility that that police once again have begun to enjoy.
We do not support cop roguery. But we are equally concerned for the development of relations between the force and the public.
We believe that if our law enforcement officers are to stay on top of and ultimately prevent violent crimes, the law enforcers desire and deserve the support of the media and the general public, including those grieving over the injury or demise of their loved ones or close acquaintances, to widen the scope of their cooperation with the participation of the community.
The police should also intensify its building of a partnership among parents, teachers, community, youth and nongovernmental organizations to enhance its credibility and, consequently, to prevent individuals from being victims or perpetrators of crime. This can be done through the conduct of visitations, seminars, lectures, open forum, shows or film showing in depressed areas and in schools.
That, perhaps, is the best way of the police getting what they deserve - the benefit of the doubt.