It's not over until it's over Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
November 3, 2003

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THE Disciplined Forces Commission (DFC) hearings have cleared up many a misconception about how Guyanese rate the credibility of the police and their sense of its capability to fight crime.

Led by politicians whose knack for opposing anything government has been legion since 1992 some sections of our society treated the police with scorn.

That psyche of cop hate might have triggered the police killings that ensued after five so-called "freedom fighters" broke their way out of the Georgetown Prison on Mash Day 2002, stabbing a young male prison officer to death and shooting and critically wounding a female prison warden in the process.

That section and the Guyana Human Rights Association apart, the general public has never treated the police with overt antagonism. The public for the most part sees the police as a necessary enforcer of law and order and desires to forge a relationship with the police in which police-citizen collaboration can lead to a significant reduction in crime and overall improvements in people's lives.

But, as the DFC hearings revealed, questions remain about the capabilities of the Guyana Police Force to effectively combat crime.

In its presentation to the DFC on Monday, October 6 last, the Guyana Bar Association called for "proper remuneration" and benefits such as free house lots to police ranks after five years of service in the Force, as one means of building morale and eliciting greater resolve among members of the Force to live up to the agency's "service and protection" motto.

Weeks earlier, that is, on September 18, building contractor Rockcliffe Pitt recommended the urgent installation of a computerized system network linking Eve Leary with all police stations to facilitate quick and easy access to information, etc., as well as access to loans and the acquisition of vehicles by non-officers.

Of equal interest has been the submission of Superintendent Balram Persaud. Supt. Persaud's passionate but level-headed plea for police to be granted full medical benefits, including life insurance, and a pension plan outside of the NIS, is unlikely to escape the attention of the powers that be.

The point is that the establishment of the Disciplined Forces Commission and the enthusiasm with which individuals and representative organizations grasped opportunities at hearings to voice their opinions and recommendations, bid well for relations between the public and our disciplined services.

It is always unlikely that people will give 100 percent support to any or everything. But the commentaries coming out of the DFC hearings signals genuine concern about where the disciplined services go from here and how they are equipped - logistically, mentally, emotionally and professionally - to deal with law enforcement.

This discussion is timely, we think, in view of what appears to be an increase in violent crimes following the successful cordon-and-search operations involving the police and the army.

We expect that the joint operations will resume in a comprehensive way and that they will continue on a wider or smaller scale after this apparently new threat to law and order and to the well being of the Guyanese citizenry is nipped before it escalates.

It must be remembered that one of the original five prison escapees is still at large, and so are several of the wanted persons who did not heed the Force's surrender call.

We have to assume that until these criminals and crime suspects are apprehended, people who have resigned themselves to a life of crime will try to create headaches for our society.

It is important, therefore, that all of us remain vigilant, that the authorities urgently implement innovations to enhance Force morale and the crime fighting spirit of our security men and women, and that the Force will build on its relations with the public, helping to overcome citizen reluctance and fear and generate support for fighting crime and making all our communities safer.

This is a job that is never done. As the saying goes, "It's not over until it's over." That's probably forever.