At DFC hearings...
Presenters highlight police-community relations By Shirwin Campbell
Guyana Chronicle
September 3, 2003

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Mr. Egston Brunswick, a representative from the Justice for Jermaine Committee, is contending that depressed communities are not necessarily a haven for criminals.

He made a presentation to the Disciplined Forces Commission at the Supreme Court Law Library yesterday.

Queried by the Chairman, Justice of Appeal Ian Chung if he had objections with the police being armed, Mr. Brunswick stated no but added that he has a problem with police using arms.

When questioned about his view about armed police being insufficiently trained, he replied in the affirmative and further pointed out that rural constables in the community policing groups and citizens are prime examples of firearm licensed holders who are not trained.

Under cross-examination the issue of negative perception of depressed communities by the police surfaced.

Mr. Brunswick added that the name of the community affects the attitude of the police and denied that the perception is a reality. "I know there are cases where police get maximum assistance from Albouystown," he declared.

He further claimed that 90% of the time the situation gets out of hand, because of the way the police act, pointing to kicking down doors to effect an arrest as provocative to the community.

Commissioner David Granger, a former National Security Adviser, informed Mr. Brunswick that the Commission is interested in improving the relations between the community and the Police Force and noting that he was representing the Albouystown community, asked him for specific recommendations toward this objective.

Mr. Brunswick then expressed the desire that the recommendations be given due consideration, pointing to past experiences where suggestions and recommendations were not adhered to by former Commissioner of Police Laurie Lewis, Police Complaints Authority, Office of the Professional Responsibility and the Office of Ombudsman.

Asked by Mr. Granger if he felt race plays a role in the issues of concern to his organization, he replied negatively, adding that regardless of the ethnic composition of the force, it will be the same since the police operate by a system.

He also highlighted that police are more likely to search depressed areas for criminals and suspects and recent events have proven they can be in any community.

When asked about what he recommends to get these criminals or petty thieves out of the society he recommended that family of those wrongfully killed by police should be compensated since they were the breadwinners.

He also recommended that priority be given for those seeking jobs from that area.

Mr. Granger asked if unemployment is high in that community and was told that it is always high in depressed communities by virtue of the location.

When seeking a job persons are discriminated against when they state that their address is Albouystown, the commissioners were told.

Mr. Granger, however, noted that the Albouystown community has produced some outstanding personalities, including a present Minister of the Government and a Chancellor, and he noted that these people have given their addresses as Albouystown also.

He enquired about schools in the community and was informed by the presenter that no primary or secondary school exists only two nursery schools.

Irish human rights activist, Maggie Beirne, queried an earlier statement by Mr. Brunswick about the Police not responding to events of a social nature when invited (for example, the police force band performing at the Albouystown fun day). She asked him for a reason for police turning down such invitation.

He was not in a position to offer such.

During his discourse with the commissioners, he expressed the opinion that a well-trained person can come under heavy fire and achieve the objective of apprehending. The police can use their weapons to disarm, they can go so far as to shoot in the legs to disable and effect an arrest, he added.

Also making presentations was Dr. Edward Simone, who expressed concern about the attitude of the police after he reported two accidents.

The first accident occurred June 06 2003 on the East Coast Demerara when his car crashed into a police barrier, at that time in the evening it was raining heavily and there were no reflectors or hazard lights. After the accident a police came out of the shelter along with a crowd and stated that he had no raincoat that is why he was not directing traffic. He related to the commissioners that he was told to make a report with the Commissioner and was unable to do so but the next day he went back to Sparendaam to make the report.

The second accident occurred in April 2003, when a mini bus crashed into his fence and house after dislodging two electrical poles. After numerous reports and checks he is yet to be compensated. He said that he learnt the bus was owned by a retired police officer.