It is not known whether the post of Commissioner of Police, which has become vacant with the retirement of now former Commissioner, Seelall Persaud, will be advertised to facilitate applicants from Guyana and the Caribbean, or will be ‘selected.’ President Granger implemented that policy in relation to the posts of Chancellor and Chief Justice, for which he had argued forcefully as Leader of the Opposition. It was productive because one such applicant was nominated for the post of Chancellor. Consistency demands that the position of Commissioner of Police be similarly advertised so as to attract the best qualified from Guyana and the region.
When appointed, the new Commissioner will recognize that without the cooperation of the public who provide information and intelligence, the capacity of the Police to solve crime would be severely diminished. It appears that such cooperation was significantly enhanced during the tenure of Commissioner Seelall Persaud. This saw a heightened crime resolving effort by the Police which deteriorated as soon as the Police came under public attack at the recent inquiry and the negative consequences of that inquiry. It is hoped that under new leadership the Police will revive its effort at good community relations which is recognized the world over as vital to crime-solving.
Violence and corruption in the police force can no longer be classified as allegations. They are real and are now an integral part of the culture of the Police Force and policing in Guyana. The sooner the authorities accept that these are chronic and systemic problems in the Police Force, the quicker there will be a serious attempt at a solution. No such attempt has yet taken place, even though modest efforts at ‘reforms’ have been made. But these have been attempted only reluctantly, after much public pressure and as an attempt to soothe public opinion. When public rage overflows, such as after the shootings in Middle Street, the public is offered the creation of a SWAT team. But the danger now exists that the Police Force will become so enmeshed and so entrenched in violence and corruption, that systems to protect these will take on a life of their own within progressively higher reaches of the Police Force.
Let us be clear. The vast majority of officers, and many of those lower down, are good, honest and dedicated policemen who are revolted by excesses. The Police Force still attracts cadets of quality who go on to become good policemen. But subsisting right alongside this quality is an established mindset, which violates the fundamental principles of policing and of morality.
The Guyana Police Force offers protection and security to the citizens of Guyana. When, therefore the Acting Commissioner undertakes to improve rapport with the public and investigate misconduct and corruption, it should be welcomed.
Previous Commissioners have given such undertakings in the past, but the fact that they have had to be repeated again and again. It is because the problems of misconduct and corruption are not going away. There is no doubt that efforts have been made to deal with these problems but they are not effective. I encouraged two young men to make complaints to the Office of Professional Responsibility about the conduct two instances of misbehavior of traffic policemen and they were literally laughed out of the room without the traffic policemen even being summoned to answer.