Police dedicate monument to 24 fallen servicemen By Samantha Alleyne
Stabroek News
January 31, 2002

It was a solemn day yesterday when the Guyana Police Force dedicated a monument to 24 of its fallen who died between 1913 and 2001 in the line of duty.

The monument, which is located in the Police Officers' Mess Compound, Eve Leary, has the names of all 24 officers engraved on its face, the year they died and under what circumstances their lives were snuffed out.

The monument, done in concrete with brown stones embedded in its sides, is fenced by white and brown polished pickets. Ten relatives of the slain officers, along with other officials, laid wreaths at the foot of the monument in remembrance of the lives lost.

The event, which saw a parade, singing and a salute to the officers killed, was attended by Prime Minister Sam Hinds, Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj, Mayor Hamilton Green, Chief-of-Staff of the army, Brigadier Michael Atherly; Director of Prisons, Dale Erskine; Chancellor of the Judiciary, Desiree Bernard; and former commissioner of police, Laurie Lewis.

Acting Commissioner of Police, Floyd McDonald, addressing the gathering said he felt that the force owed it as a matter of duty to the relatives of the deceased to erect the monument in honour of the dead officers. "It is only fitting that such a structure should be built as a constant reminder to all of the dangers and sacrifices our policemen and women have to endure in ensuring that law and order are preserved in our country," McDonald said. He noted that policing in Guyana, as in many other countries, has become a challenging and difficult profession.

Remembering her dad: Inspector E. Lowe laying a wreath yesterday in the memory of her father, Edgar Benn, who was one of the two police officers shot and killed by Clement Cuffy at Naamryck in 1959. Lowe along with other relatives of the 24 officers who died in the line of duty between 1913 and 2001 laid wreaths at the foot of a monument dedicated to the memory of the fallen men. (Lawrence Fanfair photo)

The police head noted that the demands of a police officer in the modern world were stringent. "We are expected to carry out our duties in such a manner that the rights of citizens are respected and protected," he said, adding that at the same time they were expected to be very firm in dealing with infringements of the law.

He described yesterday's event as a "momentous occasion in the annals of the Guyana Police Force and the history of this beloved country." According to him the event was long overdue, but appropriate at this time.

Giving a short history of the monument, McDonald said that it was under construction for a number of months but because of the uniqueness of the idea to the force it took them some time to bring the project to finality. "We engaged in serious deliberations at the senior management level before deciding on the type of structure needed," he added.

McDonald noted that the 24 officers made the supreme sacrifice to law enforcement in the country by giving their lives. "Many of them were young men in the prime of their lives. Their lives were snuffed out at the hands of criminals and persons who had little respect, if any, for law and order," McDonald said.

He pointed out that the men's deaths brought untold sufferings to their dependents and close relatives.

According to the acting commissioner, the society's expectations of the force were very great. And it was because the force was cognisant of the needs of society and its mandate that it had been making efforts at improving the quality of policing to the public, using a number of strategies. McDonald promised that the force will continue to look at ways and means of enhancing its service delivery.

While noting that no words or deeds could compensate for the grief endured by the relatives of the officers, McDonald said that the erection of the monument could perhaps assist in alleviating their suffering with the knowledge that the dead officers' contributions to law enforcement had not gone without recognition.

McDonald, questioned about what he might want to say to those persons who say that many more civilians have died under controversial circumstances at the hands of the police, said when persons were killed "... the procedure, if no one is charged then an inquest is supposed to be held." He pointed out that the police force had no control over the hearings, "we do what we are required to do, prepare the files and statements and send it to the coroner." He further added that the force could not order the coroner or anyone appointed to conduct the inquest. "We cannot interfere with the procedure," he added.

Prime Minister Hinds in his remarks said that it was indeed proper that the Guyana Police Force should establish such a memorial.

Hinds cautioned that all needed to be aware that in their daily life they serve each other. He noted that previous deaths must be in the minds of serving officers as they respond to the calls of victims of robberies and banditry and as they see the victims terrorised, injured or dead. The Prime Minister went on to state that the officers were also often challenged by the demands for a quick end to the reign of such bandits and robbers. "It is asking much for officers to maintain a level, balanced head," he added.

Hinds also described the monument as a reminder of failures in reconciling and resolving tension in the society and noted that in the rush and pursuit of daily lives all ends could not be met. However, he said, "loose ends give rise to feelings of distrust, unfair treatment, resentment, maybe no chance in life...., all these sentiments which provide excuse, if excuse were needed for turning to criminal activities." According to Hinds, the deaths of the officers validate, if validation were necessary, that policemen in the course of their duty encounter many who would not hesitate to end the life of a police officer. "If we truly regret the deaths of these 24 officers, as well as the victims of robberies and banditry and as well the robbers and bandits themselves who might have been slain in confrontation with the police, then we must all of us work to reduce the resentments in our society as such circumstances ... may to lead a life of crime or promote a false sense of glamour and wealth in a life of crime," Hinds said.

The memorial is dedicated to: Corporal (Cpl) James Ramsey, killed in 1913 at Plantation Rosehall Canje, Berbice by armed strikers; Cpl Ferdinand Mitchell, ambushed and shot dead on Tarlogie Public Rd, Corentyne Berbice in 1927; Constable (Const), Claude Allen, shot at Field 10 aback of Reliance Canje Berbice while escorting a payroll in 1957; Const Leslie Hannibal, cold-bloodedly hacked to death by Edward Lashley in Georgetown in 1958; Cpl Edgar Benn and Const Henry Chester, shot by Clement Cuffy at Naamryck, East Bank Essequibo in 1959; Sergeant (Sgt) Clarence Bacchus, shot dead in 1961 while investigating a report of robbery in Albouystown; Superintendent Deryck McLeod, shot by an unidentified sniper in Robb Street during `Black Friday Riots' in 1962; Inspector Whittington Brathwaite, Sgt James Anderson, Constables James McKenzie, William Norton and Kendall Michael, who died in 1969 in an attack on the Lethem Police Station, Essequibo during an insurrection; Const Michael Robinson, beaten and thrown into a canal where he drowned while on duty at Canal Number Two in 1973; Const Bhagwan Persaud, struck down by a car during a road block at Beterverwagting, ECD in 1974; Const James Henry, shot at Number 62 Toll Station, Berbice in 1974; Const Audie Bourne, shot in Station Street, Kitty while answering a 999 call in 1974; Cpl Gavin King, killed while investigating a report of robbery in Albouystown in 1978; Const John Shepherd, shot in Laing Ave by wanted criminal Simon McPhoy in 1979; Const John Toney, shot and burnt at Mora Point Police Outpost ECD in 1981; Const Adrian Williams, shot six times while attending a report at West La Penitence, 1996; Sgt Richard Faikall, shot dead during the GNCB Anna Regina bank robbery, 1997; Const Allan Higgins, shot by Hilton Rodrigues at Cromarty, Corentyne, Berbice, 1999; Const Eloye Adridge shot at the Sparendaam Police Station by Colin Hooper, 2001.