Keeping watch on the Police

Guyana Chronicle
August 8, 2001

THERE were some home truths for the Police Force and communities around the country from Home Affairs Minister, Mr. Ronald Gajraj yesterday afternoon.

A key point, he made, was that the community gets the kind of Police that it deserves.

This may be debatable but while many are quick to point accusing fingers at members of the Force, they are not so alert in acknowledging those who often encourage or coerce Policemen and women, including officers, into straying from the straight and narrow path.

As Mr. Gajraj put it yesterday:

"If you have drunken Police in a community, you would see who they might be drinking with and who have been providing the drinks for them.

"If there are corrupt Police in the community, you have been inducing them.

"And if the residents in the community are encouraging what the Police in the wrong might be doing, it must sound hollow in their mouths to complain about the Police because they have been responsible in setting the standards of the Police".

There's nothing wrong with members of the Force socialising with civilians when they are off-duty because they are after all part of the communities in which they live and work.

There, however, has to be a firm line in dealings between the Police and communities when members of the Force are on duty, otherwise the respect due will quickly disappear.

Familiarity breeds contempt and those who cajole the Police into breaking the rules are as guilty as those who fall to the temptation.

The community is integral to effective policing but when civilians have little or no respect for members of the Force, the task of maintaining effective law and order becomes even more difficult.

The Police have to earn the respect from the community, Minister Gajraj observed but noted that sometimes the Police contribute to the disrespect meted out to them by members of the community.

The Police Force has achieved much in recent years and has been steadfast in trying to maintain law and order against some rather heavy odds.

There are, however, shortcomings, some of which the Home Affairs Minister pointed to yesterday with a warning that he intends to continue to be "out and about".

The command is about to be changed with Commissioner Laurie Lewis due to retire within a month, passing the baton to Deputy Commissioner Floyd McDonald.

Mr. Gajraj's observations and warnings yesterday are therefore timely as the Force takes stock of where it is and the direction it intends to take under new leadership.

The difficulties are many, given the prevailing circumstances but these can be overcome with a determination to maintain professional standards.

The communities have a role in keeping watch on how the Police Force performs and notifying the authorities of the shortcomings.

Equally important is the need to ensure that members of the communities do not themselves contribute in any way in encouraging indiscretions by the Police.