Protective gear, weaponry for Police By Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
August 15, 2002

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THE Guyana Police Force is `upping the ante’ to procure protective gear and weaponry so as to better handle the escalating crime situation currently gripping the country.
To this end, Commissioner of Police-Designate, Mr Winston Felix, will travel overseas this weekend to source both, in particular the protective wear. This project will cost almost double the initial $100M that was recently released to upgrade the Police Force, President Bharrat Jagdeo announced yesterday at a news conference held at the Office of the President.

The Guyanese leader, who is to have a follow-up meeting with the Police top brass in two weeks, was adamant that when he meets with the group then he “ wants these things procured”.

At a news conference he hosted at State House on June 7 last, President Jagdeo had said that tackling the crime situation was the Government’s top priority. He had then announced a set of new initiatives to deal with the crime situation, which included the release of $100M to the Police Force, to boost its weaponry and other aspects.

Yesterday, however, he expressed disappointment that after one month this project had not been completed. Mr Jagdeo has since advised the Police top administration “to speed up the issue of protective gear and weaponry”.

The President emphasised that the issue of protective gear, in particular, is vital for Policemen at this time. It would also boost the confidence of the Force.

Earlier reports had indicated that the Police were shopping for the items via the Internet. However, the President has mandated the Police administration to accelerate the process, which means ignoring the sourcing quotations, a normally lengthy and time-consuming process.

The directive was given at a meeting Mr Jagdeo held last Tuesday with senior officers representing the various divisions and units of the Force. This meeting was called at the Presidential Secretariat in the wake of the Monday night attack on an Impact Patrol in which four ranks were seriously wounded. These members of the Force are all hospitalised.

Following the Monday night attack, the Police personnel attached to the Brickdam Police Station staged a sit-in and demanded an urgent meeting with Acting Commissioner Floyd McDonald. When the meeting was held, the ranks raised a number of concerns regarding the challenges posed to the Force by criminals.

They sought, too, assurances of the safety of ranks performing their duties.

Reminded that since the announcement of the release of the $100M, more Policemen have died and the crime situation has worsened, President Jagdeo said he recognised the reality that no government or anyone in the world can give an assurance that crime will stop.

Noting that there is a changing nature of crime at the regional (Caribbean) level, Guyana included, the President contended that Police Forces across the region might not have been keeping abreast with this fact.

It is for this reason, he said, that he has a list of measures. He reminded the media practitioners that he had said previously that some of the measures would have immediate effect while others would have medium-to-long term impact.

The President had said then, also, that the $100M for weaponry, communication and protective gear, was in addition to the 2002 allocation.

Others measures are:
** The undertaking of a comprehensive reform of the Intelligence Sector to strengthen intelligence gathering to support the fight against crime, narco-trafficking and threats to internal security, along with improvements in the investigative capacity of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID).

** The establishment of a specialised training centre where Police ranks and other law enforcement officers will be exposed, on a continuous basis, to modern anti-crime tactics and methods, especially on strategies, tactics and leadership.

Particularly, training in the use of modern weapons will now be a feature of the standard training programme for all law enforcement personnel.

** The establishment of a special "crime crack force", along the lines of a SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) Team to complement existing units. The SWAT team will comprise a large enough group of specially trained and well-provided-for armed officers and ranks, who will respond mainly to these new forms of criminal activities and acts of domestic terrorism.

** A complete review of existing legislation on crime, intended to lead to the introduction of new laws and to toughen existing penalties for criminal activities, and to make prosecution and conviction of criminals easier.

** That Community Policing Groups would benefit immediately from the creation of a dedicated unit within the office of the Commissioner of Police for which adequate funding would be provided for training, equipment and other resources.

** Legislation would be introduced to provide for closer monitoring of certain categories of deportees.

** The issuance of gun licences to qualified citizens will be speeded up, especially for the business community.

** An enhanced welfare package for law enforcement personnel to provide for occupational risks of which $20M will be immediately placed in a fund to be controlled by the Police Force for the dependants of Policemen and Policewomen who are killed in encounters with criminals.

Additionally, annual allocations would be made to the fund. There would be the immediate disbursement of $1M to each of the families of the law enforcement officers killed in the recent crime wave.

The President had said, too, that a Task Force would oversee the implementation of the measures. This implementation “does not and cannot cover the other operational issues and decisions being pursued by the hard-pressed security forces who are working around-the-clock to respond to the current crime situation.

None of the measures will infringe on the rights of the citizens, which rights are enshrined in the Guyana Constitution.

The President had emphasised then, too, that “while no single measure or menu of measures could guarantee complete success over crime and criminal activities, nonetheless at the national and CARICOM (Caribbean Community) levels certain initiatives could have a positive impact on the situation in the short to medium term.”