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"WHEN Halton Regional Police Sgt. Joe Prasad retired last week after nearly 37 years in law enforcement, he did so with some reflection, quiet pride and a whole lot class".
This is the opening paragraph of a page one story in the Sunday December 15, 2002 edition of the Oakville Beaver, of Halton, Ontario in Canada.
Sgt. Joe Prasad is a Guyanese who migrated to Canada in 1970.
On his retirement, he was presented with a street plaque with the legend: J. Prasad Dr., and this is to be installed on a street in the Halton Regional Police Children's Safety Village.
The village, adjacent to the Halton Police Headquarters, is a scaled-down community complete with paved roads, sidewalks, traffic signals and a functional railroad crossing. Here, children from various district schools sit in a classroom each day, learn about using the roads, and then go out into the village for practical demonstrations.
At the handing over of the street plaque to Sgt. Prasad, Police Chief Ean Algar described him as a tremendous asset to the force, lauding his unflagging support of community policing, as he reached out to the community to forge partnerships that benefitted the Safety Village and the Drug Awareness Resistance Education Programme, DARE, of which he was co-ordinator.
Sgt. Prashad was home for the 2003 Mashramani celebrations. He left Friday for Canada, with fond reminiscences of his homeland. He said in an interview that he never really wanted to leave Guyana, but the political unrest of the sixties so disturbed him that he decided it would be better for him and his family to leave the country.
So he gave up his position as a detective in the Juvenile Branch of the CID in Georgetown, and migrated to Canada.
He joined the Georgetown Police Department in Ontario in 1971, where at first, he was something of a "novelty" in the largely white town. But with his caring personality, the writer in the Oakville Beaver newspaper noted, "he was soon embraced by his new home."
As director of DARE, he raised considerable funds, vehicles and materials for the programme. Among the feathers in his cap is the 1998 mass graduation of 2,300 DARE students, the largest in the world, and the securing of donations for 24 battery-operated vehicles, so that children could learn the rules of the road in the Safety Village.
On reflection, Sgt. Prasad says the biggest change he has seen in law enforcement in his community is the mutually beneficial integration of the police and residents' goals and objectives.
He said the police officers in Halton are part of the community they serve, and this has paid big dividends.
Looking around in Georgetown, Guyana, on his most recent visit last week, Sgt. Prasad observed changes in the Guyana Police Force as against what it was when he left 33 years ago.
He recalls that the force he resigned from in Guyana in 1970 had compared favourably with what he found in Ontario when he joined the Police there.
Today, however, because of financial constraints and the consequent lagging behind in technological and forensic advances, the local force is operating at a disadvantage.
He is, however, encouraged by those dedicated policemen who are doing their very best to uphold the integrity of the Guyana Police, and this in the face of tremendous deterrents.
Among the fond memories of his Mashramani visit that Sgt. Prasad takes home with him are those of a cricket match at Fairfield, Mahaicony.
There were Amerindians and Afro and Indo- Guyanese on the teams, and he noted a strong camaraderie among the players.
When the winning side rushed to the centre of the field to celebrate their victory, Sgt. Prasad observed, they all hugged each other and danced - these multi-ethnic Guyanese - with a joyous oneness.
Sgt. Prasad was encouraged by this phenomenon, one which at first he couldn't believe, in the light of reports that seem to speak of racial divisiveness.
"If only we could learn from our young people", he said," Guyana would be a much better place to live in." (R.O)