Police weren't armed in the old days except on special occasions
Stabroek News
January 21, 2002

Dear Editor,

I am alarmed at the frequency with which it is reported that someone was shot by the police. History will show that police shootings were some-what nonexistent the 1960's. But with the advent of arming the police in the late sixties to early seventies the death toll has risen constantly. The excuses given by the police are always similar, "that the victim had a gun or was menacing to the police".

If memory serves me correctly, the police always "got their man" without killing him, except in the case of Cuffy, and in those days the police were only armed when they were looking for a specifically armed criminal. We should remember that it was the PNC that started to arm the police. At that time the police were an instrument of the PNC. I am speaking from experience, for I had a gun placed to my head "in the 70's" and pushed in my nose during a visit to Guyana.

The arming of the police to patrol the streets is detrimental to all Guyanese. It is irrelevant what race you are. Sooner, rather than later, the police will deliberately shoot the innocent and the guilty. If there are those who believe that the police will differentiate based on race, sadly they are mistaken, for police the world over feel that they can operate with impunity.

The shooting of unarmed citizens in Guyana goes way back. Some may remember Duryea Walcott of Nabaclis and Golden Grove, who was shot in his head in Agricola, East Bank Demerara in the early seventies. Mr. Walcott's crime was that he escaped from the police while under arrest as a "cow thief". The severity of his transgression was of no concern to the police, they acted as though they had the judicial right to execute on sight. There was no outcry at that police misdeed. Since then police shootings are reported what seems to be each month, with very little effort made to hold them accountable.

The Jagdeo government must show more concern for the citizenry. The action of the police is a national concern and should be non-political. There must be a more vociferous and extremely loud cry against the behaviour of the police. The commissioner of police should ensure that his men are more trained. He should also be held accountable for the actions of his rank and file. It is not good enough for the powers that be to continue posturing and being silent, while the citizens of Guyana are being slaughtered and maimed. Police officers must be held accountable and imprisoned if found guilty of such gross misjudgment.

Policemen must be relieved of their duties pending a review of their actions. Witnesses to police misconduct must be able to testify against the police without intimidation.

Guyanese living abroad are subjected to racial profiling and other acts of discrimination. This behaviour by the police is not condoned by the courts. Also citizens and aliens have judicial recourse, for they can sue for any police injustice. Policemen have lost their jobs and been imprisoned for indiscriminate actions. As of this date I do not see any police in Guyana being prosecuted for the killing of any citizen, criminal or otherwise, with the exception of the officer involved in the Beehive shooting. The action of police is of concern to many of us living abroad, for upon our return to Guyana, we expect to leave behind the problems of racial discrimination and police injustice here in North America.

Yours faithfully,

Patrick Barker