Police to take to the skies
New air wing will use helicopters By Kim Lucas
Stabroek News
October 19, 2002

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A new air wing is to be established in the Guyana Police Force, Home Affairs Minister Ronald Gajraj announced yesterday.

It is not yet clear how soon this arm will be added to the law enforcement body, or who will provide the necessary training for the ranks.

The minister, accompanied by Acting Commissioner of Police Floyd McDonald, Fire Chief Carlyle Washington, Director of Prisons Dale Erskine, and their respective deputies, was, at the time, updating the media on the crime situation. The press conference was held at the studios of GTV-11 on Homestretch Avenue.

According to Gajraj, the impending addition to the police force is now being prepared for the helicopters the government will be acquiring.

“Recently, you would have heard the president’s announcement of the impending acquisition of armoured vehicles and helicopters for the police. To prepare for this new capacity, the police force is in the process of establishing an air wing. At the same time, the marine capacity of the police force is being beefed up,” the minister told reporters.

There has been an upsurge in crime ever since the Mash Day jailbreak in which five men escaped. Apart from the deaths of 10 policemen, a number of civilians have also been killed, robbed, raped and otherwise terrorised by heavily-armed bandits.

Gajraj is maintaining that from all evidence, the escapees along with other criminals, including deportees, have been perpetuating these atrocities.

He said despite initiatives of the ministry to ensure that members of the force have the wherewithal to carry out their operations, a number of factors have constrained the effectiveness of the law enforcement agencies. “Accompanying the jailbreak, there was and still is an active campaign to demonise the members of the police force by opposition protest marches, certain television talk show hosts and odious handbills. Since February, police ranks have been murdered and many more injured by the criminals. And in some cases, criminals and criminal activities continue to receive political cover and justification.

“The influx of deportees, some with frightening criminal records and exposure has also put additional strains on our police force. A number of these individuals are, with others, actively involved in some of the recent criminal acts. [Additionally] the types of crimes committed, show that Guyana is being affected by the changing nature of crime that has featured in several CARICOM states and developed societies. The unpreparedness of our law enforcement agencies to deal with this phenomenon cannot be overlooked, although the situation is being seriously addressed.

“The contribution of the narcotics trade is an added dimension to the crime wave that has further complicated our law enforcement agencies’ response and capacity to deal with the upsurge,” the Homes Affairs Minister reiterated.

The government, recognising the reality of the crime situation, had earmarked $100M to improve the force’s weaponry, protective equipment and gear, transportation and communication facilities. This money is separate from the budgetary allocation and according to the minister, twice that amount is being spent.

“The police are receiving supplies, while additional orders have been placed for these articles, which are custom-made...During the past weeks, the forensic capacity of the CID (Criminal Investigations Department) has been boosted and this will continue.”

As efforts continue to improve the capability of the force, the minister pointed out that a plot of land has already been identified for the setting up of a specialised training centre, where law enforcement officers will be exposed, on a continuous basis, to modern anti-crime tactics and methods.

British trainers and the necessary training equipment are expected to arrive in the country shortly.

“Internally, and with support from the army, the police have been conducting specialised training so as to respond to the common crime techniques,” Gajraj stated.

Other boosts include the reform programme of the police force, which the minister said is moving swiftly ahead.

According to Gajraj, this programme, supported by the British, covers nearly all aspects of policing and is having a positive impact on the ranks’ capacity to respond and operate in the current environment.

This programme, Gajraj pointed out, is “wide-ranging and must be seen as a process”.

The Home Affairs Ministry is also continuing its programme to upgrade and rehabilitate police stations and outposts across the country.