McCormack urges new approach to policing
Stabroek News
April 8, 2002

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Co-President of the Guyana Human Rights Association (GHRA), Mike McCormack yesterday reiterated a call for a new approach to policing and appealed to the Guyana Bar Association (GBA) to intensify its involvement in the criminal law reform process.

McCormack was addressing participants at the final session of the GBA's two-day Law Conference yesterday held at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel with respect to the implications of extra-judicial deaths.

He referred to the GHRA's recent publication of a report on police shootings which spanned more than two decades, stating that the compilation aimed to highlight the problem, test claims that such executions are racially motivated, establish police killings as a non-partisan issue and to define this type of execution " symptomatic of a policing culture which is obsolete, ineffective and counter-productive in respect to fighting crime, promoting respect for the rule of the law and the morale of the police force."

Citing Saturday morning's shooting death in Buxton of Shaka Blair by the Target Special Squad `black clothes' police, McCormack pointed out that the incident had proved humiliating for the Guyana Police Force (GPF) as well as the country as it had forced the cancellation of an international race. He noted that in addition to the embarrassment caused, the Blair incident had essentially handicapped the GPF in the performance of its necessary duties. "High profile policing seems to indicate that there is a vendetta between the special squads in the GPF and hard core criminals which does not take into account the consequences for the GPF as a whole or society in general," McCormack remarked. Further, this type of policing contributes to severe demoralisation within the GPF and results in society facing the effects of racial incitement, beatings and destruction of property among other negative impacts.

The GHRA co-president underscored that the political mechanisms for mediating conflict are in a fragile state. Expanding, he reminded that parliament had met for a mere 19 days in the past 12 months, the constitutional reform commissions have not been set up and that statutory bodies such as the Teaching Service and Public Service commissions are currently non-functional. As such, violent policing, which provokes communities, is particularly irresponsible.

McCormack asserted that there is a need to construct a new approach to policing based on a strong partnership with the community. He stated that in order to develop this strategy, the establishment of a National Commission on policing involving agencies like the GBA and appropriate civic bodies as well as other related policing agencies is necessary. Further, that this would enable the development of intelligence-led policing and aid in re-assuring the community about the role of the police.