Guyana: Time to put a stop to Crooked Cops – By Yvonne Sam

 – By Yvonne Sam

Investigation has provided no remediation. Ranks still collecting for protecting

I open with a statement  written by the author which appeared in your newspaper on December 10, 2015 — The Guyana Police Force in cooperation with the State, the Society and the Citizens of Guyana have according to their mission statement sworn to provide service and protection by means of crime prevention and detection, maintenance of law and order, traffic control, property protection and peace preservation, through the provision of the highest standard of professional police service with absolute integrity and dedication.               

https://www.kaieteurnewsonline.com/2015/12/10/the-police-force-is-a-runaway-train-of-corrupt-behaviour/.

Such a statement stands in stark contrast to known facts and displayed acts, especially in light of a recent whistleblowing episode where some ranks of the Police Force’s “B” Division in the Ancient County have brought forward damning allegations of their colleagues being in collusion with known criminals.  The whistleblowers who have only now come forward as the situation have gotten out of hand, further disclosed the connection between junior and senior ranks and the criminal network, with a rank collecting large sums of money for tipping off the criminals when the police were on their track.

In the recent shoot out in Black Bush Polder the cellphones found on the three bandits had numbers of police ranks in the call logs and contact lists. Weighing in on the situation Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, contended that there is always some sort of existing complicity between criminals and rogue elements of law enforcement. He further added that while such an anomaly is not exclusive to Guyana, a no-tolerance attitude exists for such behaviour.

A strange comparative acknowledgement of sort and one which gives a distorted connotation to the term tolerance, for the issue of corruption within the ranks dates back to as far as 2002, during the reign of then President Bharrat Jagdeo, when revelations during a courtroom trial in the U.S. caused the Guyana Police Force Special Police Target Squad to become the target of an investigation, involving Thomas Caroll, a former Vice- Consul of the United States Embassy in Guyana. The latter had solicited the assistance of members of the Tactical Squad of the Police Force, known as The Black-Clothes Police, to act as enforcers, silencing and intimidating anyone who revealed his visa selling racket.

Taking pride of place in the police rogue gallery in the face of  afore stated non-tolerance is  former Assistant Police Commissioner Steve Merai who self-confessed death squad member, Shawn Hinds implicated in the 2010 gunning down of political activist Ronald Waddell.   Then there is Police Sergeant David Leon Lindo accused of conspiring with other persons to cause the death of businessman Mohamed F. Khan, who was reportedly made a target following a business dispute with another business person. Kaieteur News December 5, 2015 revealed that a serving member of the Police Force reportedly confessed to his involvement in a carjacking ring that relieved a taxi driver of his vehicle at gun point.

Police corruption not only propagates distrust among the public, but serves to undermine the criminal justice as a whole. While political issues can easily be dealt with, the social effect of police corruption is much harder to overcome. What Minister Ramjattan failed to realize or consciously overlooked is that acknowledgement of complicity between criminals and rogue elements of law enforcement speaks volumes regarding the Force’s selection process.  What type of humans are being hired?

The screening and selection process should be taken very seriously, as many problem officers are flagged on pre-employment screening, but the signs are often overlooked or ignored. Apparently there are s steps to be taken before applicants are recruited into the Force viz:  (a) successful completion of a written examination, (b) passing of medical tests, (c) acceptable background checks.  As long as the applicant has successfully completed the three afore-mentioned steps they have an automatic entry into the Police Force. Such a system produces quantity rather than quality Examination of the recruitment system revealed that the Final Interview for Selection conducted by the Police is very limited and is not structured to address behaviour, especially psychological behaviour.

In April 2014 President Donald Ramotar while speaking at the opening of the Annual Police Officers’ Conference said that ‘integrity testing’ will possibly become a feature that top ranking officers will have to undergo before being promoted. According to Ramotar, it is the hope that such a move would weed out corrupt officers from the helm of the Force, ultimately translating to a less corrupt institution. Opposition Leader David Granger announced that he had no faith in the proposal by President Ramotar.

The continued presence of rogue cops at all levels within the force has been a problem plaguing both the past and present government, and the current situation only typifies the inefficacy and inability of the Force to rid itself of this longstanding scourge. To what tolerance does Ramjattan refer?  What tangible evidence can be provided to corroborate the efforts made thus far to eradicate corruption? Investigation has certainly not brought about remediation.

Corruption within the force affects society, including political, economic and sociological. Easiest to define is the social aspect, because one corrupt officer in a department can generate an overall distrust of the entire department. The entire Waldo Police Department, located in Florida was disbanded due to allegations of corruption.

As I have previously stated in an earlier article on the said issue, the Police Force and law agencies within Guyana should look microscopically closer, at not only their hiring policies but also the integrity of those whom they hire. In the U.S 90% of law enforcement agencies use psychological testing for pre-employment screening.   While the psychological screening does not determine a candidate’s sanity or lack thereof, it nevertheless identifies traits that determine a candidate’s suitability to become a police officer. Although it takes all kinds of personalities to make up an effective police force, there are nevertheless certain traits that all officers should ideally share.

A major undertaking in combatting police corruption should be to provide constant support and recognition to officers (? whistleblowers) who by reporting corruption, choose to do what is ethically correct rather than what is expected of them by their colleagues.  Honest police officers need to recognize the harm that even minor corrupt acts may cause and take the necessary steps to expose each instance which they are witness to.

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