Police pay should start at $45,000
-says police association, reports 458 ranks left force last year
Stabroek News
September 9, 2003

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Poor pay is one of the reasons why the number of ranks who left the police force in 2002 reached 458, nearly double those who joined, the Chairman of the Police Association said yesterday.

Inspector Derrick Josiah told members of the Disciplined Forces Commission that salaries and benefits should reflect the risks faced by policemen, who should receive $45,000 as the minimum starting salary.

He was testifying before the Commission, which was set up by the National Assembly to review the operations of the Disciplined Services. It will give priority to its investigation of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), and will submit a report of its findings and recommendations to the Assembly.

Justice of Appeal Ian Chang is chairman of the Commission, while former Attorney General Charles Ramson SC, former National Security Adviser, Brigadier (rtd) David Granger, attorney-at-law, Anil Nandlall and Irish human rights activist, Maggie Beirne are the other members.

The Police Association, which represents from the rank of Chief Inspector to Constable, recommends across-the-board pay hikes for all members. Constables, according to the recommendation, will start at $45,000 a month tax-free, with corresponding increases at the higher levels.

One of the association’s arguments for the pay hikes is Section 32 of the Police Act Chapter 16:01, which prevents police officers, their direct family as well as their spouses from operating businesses, unless consent is granted by the Police Commissioner. Otherwise the policeman can be discharged.

The association pointed out that this section of the Act in some cases forces some families to be solely dependent on the policeman’s income. The association has recommended that this law be reviewed and with the exception of the sale of alcoholic beverages, their families be allowed to run businesses.

The association also recommends that policemen be paid the outstanding sum owed to them from the 31.06% salary increase that was awarded by the government to public servants in 1999.

Josiah explained that the ranks within the GPF had only received a 12% salary increase in 1999. In 2000 they were awarded a 26% increase on this figure, but have still to be awarded the remaining 19.06% from the 1999 pay hike. The association is asking for the payment of this increase, retroactive to January 1999.

Josiah said that the association had been complaining about poor wages over the last three years but blamed poor representation for the administration’s inactivity on the issue. He referred specifically to the Joint Services Committee, which he said had been seemingly dormant over the last four years, during which time there had been no representations for pay hikes.

A fallout from this, Josiah said, had been the high number of resignations by members who say they can find better offers elsewhere. Factoring in deaths and retirements as well as legal and illegal withdrawals, 463 ranks left the police force last year, while 273 persons joined.

To maintain those remaining in the force as well as those recruited, the police body is also seeking increases in the benefits and gratuities granted to policemen, which like salaries, are also considered inadequate. These include allowances granted for medical, vacation, vehicles, education as well as risk allowances. Members of the force who qualify now for risk allowances are only paid $52 a month, which the Association recommends should be hiked to $6,000 and extended to benefit all policemen. Increases in pension and gratuity payments have also been proposed, since many of these are inadequate or outdated, such as the benefits which are paid to dependents in the event of a policeman’s death while in service. The benefits are calculated on the salaries of these officers. Another example is cost for burial, which under the law is the responsibility of the GPF. Josiah noted that the Force only paid $5,000 to family members for funeral arrangements.

Representations were also made to erase the disparity between the salaries of regular policemen and members of the special constabulary who are paid less. Josiah made this observation, while noting that in considerable cases, members of the constabulary perform the exact functions as policemen.

He also complained about politicians interfering with policemen, who were concerned about this behaviour.

Outlining the typical scenario, he said a police officer in the course of an investigation could receive a call from a politician who directs him to take a certain course of action. According to Josiah, this had left policemen afraid.

“Do you think that the reporting of incidents of political interference is up to par with what is happening?” asked legal adviser to the Commissioner Bertlyn Reynolds.

“We feel it is not reported often,” replied Josiah, who explained that policemen usually made such reports on a one-on-one basis with association officials, rather than in the open.

He instead recommended that persons in the political directorate deal with the Commissioner of Police or other functional superiors in the hierarchy of the Force.

“Don’t you think that this is the case already?” Commissioner Beirne asked Josiah, who in response reiterated that procedure should be followed.

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