Slowe admits brutality, corruption in police force
Promises 'new dispensation' By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
May 23, 2004

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New Commander of `A' Divi-sion, Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe says he is no proverbial ostrich burying his head in the sand. He readily admits there is evidence of police brutality and corruption in the force and that those ranks should be identified and dealt with.

However, this cannot be done without the help of the public who would need to provide the information about any wrongdoing.

Slowe was recently transferred from `B' Division, Berbice and is seen as a no-nonsense officer even though controversy has surrounded him of late. Late last year he moved to the High Court and got an injunction against former acting Commissioner of Police, Floyd McDonald, preventing him from him being transferred from Berbice following his refusal to apologise to Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj.

But this spat has not hurt his career given he has now been appointed the commander of the country's busiest division. Despite huge challenges, he does not have any special plans for the execution of his job: "I have my approach, which might be different from the approach others might have taken, but my approach is very straightforward. I think it is well established and known by now."

And were more to follow his example he says the work would become much easier, simply because it is based on the principle that all ranks are there to serve to the public.

Slowe, who has a degree and a diploma from the University of Guyana and countless certificates from overseas training, is now responsible for all aspects of the division including, crime, traffic and general duties.

"When you talk about crime I intend to ensure that we are proactive, have our patrols and... try to gather intelligence so that we can embark on more intelligence-led activities, not just running here and there wildly..."

He says the force has limited resources and as such, members are forced to work within certain limits.

"Once you have limited resources then you have to utilise them very carefully and that is why I intend to ensure that we try to gather intelligence, so that when we have exercises and we have operations they are based on intelligence."

He recalls that Commissioner of Police Winston Felix had stated at the recently concluded officers' conference that the force would be working on re-establishing the beat system. Slowe says the system has been resuscitated and they intend to ensure that it is maintained since it is a proactive measure with a presence on the road.

"We don't have as many as we would wish to have in the long run, but for now we've identified certain areas and we have ranks in these areas."

As for traffic, Slowe says the East Bank and the areas around the minibus parks continue to be very problematic. There have been several accidents on the East Bank with two fatalities just last week.

Weed-out bent cops

As to what can be done to change the public's perception of the force, he suggests that there is need to identify those persons who tend to be unprofessional and "weed them out."

"...It is one of the things that I am targeting to ensure that those persons are identified; those persons who treat people in any rude way so they could be dealt with. We have a mechanism in the force to deal with those persons..."

He intends to have ranks trained on how they should deal with the public and this has already commenced.

"If after that [the training] they continue, we have to take drastic measures to weed them out of the system." It is all part of a "new dispensation" as he puts it.

"But I want to say this at this point we need the support of the public to deal with it because when these people are rude and unprofessional they are not unprofessional to me the commander, they are rude and unprofessional to the public and they must be prepared to make complaints so that we can deal with [these persons].

"I have said on several occasions that you might not have confidence in a particular policeman, but I am sure in a small country like ours there must be people who you have confidence in. Whether they are inside or outside, whether they are a priest or a teacher, go to them and they in turn must know someone that they can trust and eventually you are going to get to the right person..."

CSI techniques needed here

Slowe does not think the force lacks investigative skills: "What I know that we lack are some of the modern investigative tools, and that is what in most cases prevents us from going further in these investigations."

He comments that numerous persons look at the television investigative programmes such as CSI (Crime Scene Investigation) and Cold Case and they then compare what they see to what is happening locally.

He points out that many officers have been trained in crime scene management overseas and they know what is required, but they do not have tools such as DNA testing and forensic equipment. "So we have to operate within our resource limitations. And let me tell you this, I have had persons who operate in other forces with all of this modern equipment to come and see how we operate and they are amazed at the kind of successes we have, given the limited resources."

Questioned about numerous complaints by accused persons of being beaten by members of the force to give caution statements, Slowe says that while he is aware that it happens sometimes, in many cases persons are just told to make such allegations.

"Let me say this, and here I am being brutally frank. I know, having served in Berbice for over four years and in 'A' Division before, it has become fashionable now for all the attorneys once they go to court... they always say that their clients were forced into making the statement. I am not saying in some cases that ranks have not done the wrong thing, but I am saying not in all cases as they would want to create the impression that the only thing the police do is beat people to get caution statements. It is not so, it is a wrong perception, it is wrong. It is wrong in the sense that we ought not to do that and it is wrong in the sense that the impression should not be created."

He says he has firsthand experience where lawyers advised accused persons to inform the magistrates that the police had beaten them even in cases where the lawyers do not officially represent them.

He says only a small percentage of persons could say that they had firsthand experience of such treatment, adding that there was a case where a man went on a popular television programme with injuries and when the matter was investigated, it was learnt that he had actually inflicted his own injuries.

However, Slowe says, "I would never say that brutality does not take place, we are doing our best to address it. I would never ever tell anyone that corruption does not take place because I have had cases to deal with ranks who I was convinced were corrupt. I would never, ever be the proverbial ostrich. I am honest about these things when they exist, but all I am saying is don't just talk about it, assist us to deal with it. Some people would talk but then they would say they don't want to come forward, well if you don't want to come forward then don't talk!"

'I am a bit stubborn'

Not too keen to dwell on last year's spat with Gajraj, Slowe reveals that he has since withdrawn the matter from the High Court following the swearing in of the new commissioner.

"I discontinued the proceedings earlier this year; I was not affected in the least by the issue. People who know me know that is the way I operate, very professionally, and some will claim that I am a bit stubborn. And maybe it is so but if I know I am doing the right thing and I am in the right I will continue to do the right thing."

Slowe says his job is always interesting and if he had to choose all over again, he would still choose to be a police officer.

He says it is a noble profession and sometimes he is horrified at the behaviour of some of the junior ranks and how they tarnish the force's image.

It appears they are in for a big surprise with Slowe back in town.