The problems in the police force spring from the Burnham era
Stabroek News
March 8, 2002

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Dear Editor,

The recently published report by the Guyana Human Rights

Association, into the fatal shootings committed by some members of the Guyana Police Force during the period of 1980 2001, presents very grim reading, and has challenged us as Guyanese to confront some harsh, uncomfortable and unpalatable truths about the society in which we live.

Like Guyana, in Jamaica, Brazil, Nigeria, Haiti and many other countries, the control powers of the police are primarily directed against the young, male,black,economically marginal street population, "who threaten the tranquility of public space", as defined by the dominant powers.Brazil, although within the geographical contiguity of Guyana, is remote from our national consciousness. In Brazil there are regular moral street cleaning exercises, where the young, homeless petty criminals from the favelas who inhabit the streets of some cities are being randomly killed by the police during "culling exercises". These young street children are disproportionately, African Brazilians.

In both industrial, and developing societies the basic organisational mandate of the police tends to concentrate most of the policing resources on the underclass. Young black males are thus most likely to come into conflictual contact with the police. Global police resources are selectively targetted to the patrolling of public spaces. The lower the social class of an individual, the more their social lives take them into public spaces, and as a consequence into conflictual contact with the police, for the most minor of infractions.

The interactional aggregation of certain factors will ensure that unless there are comprehensive reforms to the Criminal Justice System the killing of disproportionately young, black men will continue unabated. Violence of this magnitude is not new to Guyana. I will argue, that above any other phenomenon, it was the illegal seizure of central government power by the fraudulent elections of 1973, that pushed the downward spiral into coercion, violence and intimidation.Almost immediately the role of the police changed within a militarised Guyana of the 1970s and early 1980s. As the dictator arrogated more and more power to himself,he needed to protect such illegitimate and minority state power, thus policing in Guyana became militarised. The current display of brutality by the police, is an overdrive from the Burnham era, and the most enduring legacy of the P.N.C.

Police officers come predominantly from the working class, and from a society whose moral fabric has been destroyed by the P.N.C. Research has shown that these men are more likely to behave violently, and to be tolerant of physical aggression. Many police officers also have masculinity anxieties, and express them through the challenges posed by the "hard men" in the community.

The problems in the police force are not just the behavior of a deviant minority per se ,but the interplay of factors such as widespread corruption, the explosive dynamic of drug trafficking, the lack of programmic re integration for the deportees,

compounded by a largely untrained, ill equipped , under-resourced and underfunded police force.The P.N.C created this problem, but the response of the P.P.P/Civic is inertia .

Yours faithfully,

Joseph B. Collins