Crack police squad plans moving ahead
Vehicle certification, other functions may be hived off By Patrick Denny
Stabroek News
January 27, 2003

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Amid increasingly brutal crimes, the Ministry of Home Affairs has identified a training site for an elite police team and is considering privatising a number of functions - including certification of vehicles - now done by policemen.

The crack police squad was one of the measures President Bharrat Jagdeo announced in June last year to cope with burgeoning crime.

In step with the recommendations of a UK-commissioned report, the Ministry of Home Affairs is considering privatising the certification of vehicles and is also looking at employing more civilians for tasks now done by the law enforcers.

Relieving the Guyana Police Force (GPF) of tasks which civilians can undertake is one of the many recommendations in the Symonds Report on the reform of the Guyana Police Force. The Symonds Group submitted the report in November 2000 at the end of the strategic review of the Force that lasted about two months. The United Kingdom Department for International Development commissioned the study at the request of the Guyana government.

However, Home Affairs Minister, Ronald Gajraj told Stabroek News on Saturday that so far the proposals that have been received do not satisfy concerns about sustainability.

Another recommendation is related to Community Policing, which Gajraj says is now under the supervision of the Assistant Commissioner of Police (Administration) Henry Greene. Greene, according to Gajraj, reports directly to the Commissioner of Police on these matters. He said too that the unit in the Commissioner's office, which deals with community policing, is also under the supervision of Greene.

At the divisional level, Gajraj says that community policing is under the second-in-command of the division and that retired officers are being retained to relate to the community policing groups.

Gajraj, who has come under increasing pressure over the failure to bring the crime wave under control, disclosed that a school for specialised training to be undergone by a crack force comprising some 300-400 officers from across the country is being established at a location identified on the Linden-Soesdyke Highway. The crack force, according to Gajraj, would eventually replace the Target Special Squad (TSS) and some other operational units in the Force.

The TSS popularly known as the Black Clothes Police is at the centre of numerous allegations that its members have been involved in extra-judicial killings and other crimes.

In recent talks among the political parties organised by the Social Partners, it was agreed that the TSS would be replaced.

Related to this issue, Gajraj said that legislation to provide the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) with its own investigative unit is being considered as the present act does not meet the demands of the society today for transparency and accountability. The head of the PCA, former Chancellor of the Judiciary, Cecil Kennard has signalled that he will seek legislative changes for the strengthening of the body. The present PCA Act has been criticised because complaints against the police are referred to the GPF for investigation and the PCA is not adequately financed or equipped.

Other aspects of training are also being looked, Gajraj said, explaining that last year quite a number of training courses were run for officers at all levels of the Force both locally and overseas, including officers at the highest levels of the Force. It was as a result of that training and personal interviews with President Bharrat Jagdeo that Deputy Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix, was identified to be the next Commissioner of Police. Gajraj said too that this year the Force expects to do quite a lot more training of its members both locally and overseas

Another recommendation of the Symonds Group is the establishment of a witness protection scheme. Gajraj says that the establishment of such a scheme is being dealt with regionally given the size of the individual territories and the challenges they present in providing a safe haven for persons who provide information to the Police.

With regards to the beefing up of the Public Relations Department of the Force, Gajraj says that this is being actively pursued but confessed that it is a question of the human resource capital.

With regards to traffic legislation, Gajraj noted that legislation making the use of seat belts mandatory came into effect at the beginning of the year and legislation introducing the use of radar guns and breathalyzer tests is in the pipeline.

Other areas being looked at include intelligence gathering. This area has been seen by some analysts as a key deficiency as indicated by the GPF's inability to rein in the crime spree. Gajraj declined to expand on the computerisation of the records of the Force and linking it to the other law enforcement agencies. He referred to his recent announcement that IBM is undertaking a diagnostic study to assess the feasibility of linking the various law enforcement agencies.

And referring to concerns expressed about the award of the contract to IBM, Gajraj said that it was awarded after a public tendering process in which local information technology firms participated.

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