Op-Ed: Guyana Police Force drops the ball while slumbering

By Leroy Smith

Guyana’s Police Force seems to be in a deep sleep for months now and while the slumber continues, the assault on citizens by unsuspecting persons seems to be on the increase.

The force has dropped the ball on many issues including its relationship with the press and the members of the public. In this Op-ed I will address the latter which falls under the pillar of Social Crime Prevention.

The work of the Guyana Police Force will continue to get harder in the absence of a meaningful Social crime Prevention Initiative. While the force would need to share some of the blame for the decline or death of this initiative, so too should the Ministry of Public Security and Government.

In layman’s term let me give my own definition of Social Crime Prevention so the average person can understand.

‘Social Crime Prevention is where officers and members of the force go into communities and build mutual relationships with residents that can foster a level of trust between the two sides. Engage the communities young people and adults in programs that will see the police not as enemies of the communities but as a group of persons who want to make their community safer, not by targeting the innocent or those who are abiding by the law, but rather to root out those in the communities who are responsible for police raids and operations in the communities by virtue of their; the questionable characters activities and actions’

When the Social Crime Prevention initiative was rolled out in 2014 it helped the police force tremendously as the force virtually had eyes and ears in almost every community through civilians who from time to time shared information with law enforcement which resulted in the solving of many crimes, both major and otherwise.

This relationship saw an upward mobility in the relationship between the police and the members of the public and this upward mobility was credited directly to the new posture the police had adopted of getting more involved with the community on a mutual basis.

It remains sad to know that after such a great initiative and fruitful outcome that the force’s Social Crime Prevention initiative has been watered down to just the sharing of hampers for photo opportunities as compared to skills training and other developmental initiatives which were employed in the earlier days.

One of the challenges I am aware that the force had with the initiative was that no central government financing was given to Social crime Prevention through budgetary allocation so the police force and had its commanders and officers begging business persons for handouts to keep the initiative alive.

As was expected, this could not continue forever because at some point; those business persons would have become overwhelmed having been bombarded week after week to pump funds and resources into the program.

The begging by these police officers and other ranks also created an added problem for the police where persons who give freely, were naturally going to be expecting a favour to be returned to them at some point and that in itself created a problem because despite of how you look at it, its human nature…a police man who goes to Tom Jones and begs for favour will feel obligated to grant Thom Jones a favour or some sort of leniency when Tom Jones finds himself in a jam and there were many cases like that.

I have repeatedly asked senior officers within the Guyana Police Force and even the Minister of Public Security, why government has not been allocating monies to the police force for this program especially given the results which were produced in the first few years of its implementation. The answers were never comforting, I recall asking a similar question at one of the Commissioner of Police Press Conferences and was told that the programs are still ongoing. Well on that note, I am still awaiting to see the fruits of those engagements.

Social Crime Prevention as I know it has to do with building a relationship with members of the public and gaining their trust in such a way that when their communities ‘sneeze’ as law enforcement, you become the first to know where the sneezing occurred, who sneezed and why they sneezed. As commanders and sub divisional officers, you make yourself accessible to the people.

The police force is faced with a number of crimes being committed in police divisions and while forensic evidence and investigations will make cases assist cases, so too will proper information from members of the public and those respective communities.

There was once an initiative where officers would visit the homes of victims of serious crimes and accidents; that too seems to be a thing of the past.

Get out of your air conditioned offices and go and meet the people, take off the uniforms and go into the communities with civilian clothing, have community meetings, walk the villages, stop at the corner shops and make yourselves known. Some communities in this country have never seen their divisional commanders. Having an open door policy is NOT ENOUGH. Everyone will not be comfortable meeting you in your space.

Finally, the Police Commissioner and his deputies need to get a handle of this situation where officers who know they are preparing for retirement, just sitting and warming up the seats at police stations and conducting their duties in a laissez-faire manner.

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