Upgrading the force Editorial
Stabroek News
April 27, 2002

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The appointment of Mr. Winston Felix as the next Commissioner of Police has been well received. Himself and three of his colleagues have received extensive special training in the United Kingdom and many feel that Mr. Felix can undertake the job of reconstruction and improvement of the force that is badly needed.

There is much to be done and though Mr. Felix is not yet in charge one imagines he will play a major role in the strategic planning necessary to motivate and revitalise the force. He will have the benefit of the advice of senior officers from Scotland Yard. One of the tasks facing him will be the establishment of better relations between the police and the community which have been marred by various instances of police brutality. Training is also badly needed in areas like crowd control.

But perhaps the key task facing the Commissioner designate will be remoulding the Target Special Squad, which has a well established reputation, that goes back to President Burnham, for murdering criminals without benefit of trial. Persons with no political axe to grind strongly support the demand of the main opposition party that these extra-judicial executions be ended. They are completely unacceptable and do endless damage to the reputation of the police force and its relationship with the public. Opposition politicians have acknowledged that there is need for a special squad to deal with dangerous criminals but it must operate in accordance with professional standards of police conduct which do not permit shooting unarmed persons who pose no immediate threat. The situation is not, of course, always that clear cut but as the recent report of the Guyana Human Rights Association has shown it has been well established over the last three decades that many persons have been brutally gunned down by this squad and the most impossible and often clearly fictitious excuses have been offered. One of the first tasks of Mr. Felix, therefore, will be to acknowledge the legitimate complaints of the PNC/Reform on this issue and deal with them.

The government, naturally concerned with what it sees as an alarming increase in armed robberies and also unnerved by recurring political protests that have often turned violent, has tended to take the attitude that all is well. It has to bite the bullet and recognise that this is not an acceptable or tenable position for a democratic government to take. The reconstruction of an efficient police force that operates on professional principles is in the interest of all Guyana, including the government. It will not be easy but if there is clear evidence that there is a plan of some sort and that efforts are being made there will be much goodwill and public support. What is no longer tolerable is the bland public pretence by the government that there is nothing wrong.

The appointment of Mr. Felix is potentially a big step forward. We agree, as has been suggested by several letter writers, that he should take over sooner rather than later. We await developments with interest.