Corentyne anti-crime group members want police training speeded up
Force says it has to be meticulous

By Daniel DaCosta
Stabroek News
July 12, 2001

Some among the more than fifty members of the Corentyne Crime Prevention Committee set up on June 6 following four days of protests at Albion say they are becoming frustrated at the slow pace at which the police force is training individuals recommended by the group.

However, a senior police source in the Division told Stabroek News this week that the Force has to be meticulous in its processing of these individuals since they will eventually be sworn-in as Rural Constables with powers to arrest and to carry firearms.

"We have to ensure that the individuals who have been recommended are properly screened before they are sworn-in and trained."

The committee was established following a meeting with President Bharrat Jagdeo and in the wake of a spate of armed robberies committed on several Lower Corentyne families. Members of the committee represent areas between Number 46 Village and East Canje, including Black Bush Polder.

At the first meeting with the President, the protesters had submitted a long list of demands and called for their immediate implementation. Among the demands were "the issuance of an adequate number of gun licences to qualified residents and vigilante groups should be assigned one weapon each and one police liaison."

To date the committee has had two meetings with the Head of State and one with "B" Division Commander, Assistant Commissioner Paul Slowe two weeks ago. The committee is expected to meet with the acting Commander, Senior Superintendent Malvin Glasgow today at the Rose Hall Scots School, Rose Hall Town in the absence of Slowe who is reportedly on vacation.

According to a member of the committee, crime prevention groups have so far been established at Nigg, Letter Kenny, Rose Hall and Albion. At Rose Hall, a 12-member group was established one week ago and is being paid a weekly stipend. The committee member said the group, which includes ex-policemen, has already made two arrests. "However, the training of individuals recommended by us has not been progressing satisfactorily and members are becoming frustrated. Some are also wondering whether the arrangements agreed upon will materialise." He also noted that the police at Albion had begun training some group members without notifying the committee.

Another committee member accused the police of dragging their feet on the processing exercise and expressed the hope that training will commence shortly. The committee has recommended a minimum of four individuals to be trained as Rural Constables and ten for the larger areas. One member also alleged that the Division's Policing Committee was attempting to interfere with the work of the committee.

However, according to a source close to the committee, "the expectations of some members of the committee might have been raised a bit too high and therefore expected that firearm licences would have been issued willy-nilly. A lot of people had the impression that licences would have been granted almost overnight."

A senior police source told this newspaper that the number of persons recommended to become Rural Constables is to be tabulated at today's meeting after which arrangements will be made to have them sworn in.

"Their training, including the use of firearms, will then commence but we have to be meticulous in processing their applications and checking their records," he explained. The Rural Constables will be responsible for the groups and will have powers of arrest as well as other authority. According to the source, three or four Rural Constables will be licensed to use firearms within each group.

"Not all the RCs will be licensed. However, we are working to ensure that each group will be accompanied by at least one policeman," he said.

Responding to statements made by committee members, the officer said training is conducted every Friday at the various stations "but only some persons turn up. We are therefore encouraging persons to turn up for training on Fridays at the various stations in the Division. We are attempting to increase the number of Rural Constables to make the Community Policing Groups stronger."

Asked about any possible conflict between the existing Divisional Policing Committee and the Crime Prevention Committee, the official said "they are expected to work together since all we are doing is empowering more persons to fight crime and to execute arrests."

Following a promise made by President Jagdeo, a 4x4 Land Cruiser was handed over to the Division a few weeks ago by Minister of Home Affairs Ronald Gajraj for night patrols.

Stabroek News understands that the second vehicle promised is expected in the region over the new few days. Commander Slowe told the media following the protests at Albion that the Division needed more vehicles and police ranks to become more effective in the fight against crime.

In May, Slowe had said that Community Policing Groups had lost their focus and there was need for them to determine whether their mandate was relevant to today's society. Speaking at the annual general meeting of the Division's Policing Committee, the Commander said it was necessary to re-examine the legal status and the role of Community Policing Groups. He posited that the Groups have not evolved over the last ten years to the point where they ought to be today.

Outgoing Chairman of the Committee Jainarine Balram had then queried the legal status of the groups and pointed to disillusionment among some members of some groups with many becoming inactive. He had issued a call then for young people to join the groups.

Meanwhile, the Guyana Police Force will launch a massive recruitment drive countrywide on Saturday. Interviews will be conducted in New Amsterdam and on the Corentyne and young unemployed Berbicians are being urged to apply.