President pledges to back police action plan By Chamanlall Naipaul
Guyana Chronicle
April 23, 2004

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PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo has given the assurance that his government is fully committed to improving the welfare of the police and the resources necessary for greater efficiency in the operations of the Guyana Police Force (GPF).

In the feature address yesterday at the opening of the three-day Annual Police Officers Conference at Eve Leary, Georgetown, President Jagdeo called on Police Commissioner Winston Felix to provide a plan of action and said the government would do everything possible to provide the requirements.

Responding to a request from Felix for the establishment of a medical scheme through a private insurance company for members of the GPF who sustain injuries in the line of duty, the President assured him that the government will ensure that such a scheme is implemented.

Noting that there is an ongoing feasibility study in relation to the establishment of such a scheme through a private company, President Jagdeo said even if the study shows that such a move would not be feasible, an alternative government-funded arrangement under the management of the GPF will be implemented.

“It will be done,” the President stressed, further explaining if the latter, which he favours, is implemented provisions would be made for members of the GPF to enjoy annual financial benefits.

He observed that the Commissioner has taken over the mantle of the GPF at a challenging time, with the changing nature of criminal activities which is posing a threat to the security and stability of the society.

Acknowledging the sacrifice of the fallen policemen as a result of the upsurge in violent crimes, the President alluded to their courage, dedication and professionalism in the execution of their duties.

However, he cautioned members of the GPF that despite the relative reduction in violent crimes they must not become complacent, urging them not to be distracted by a campaign to tarnish their image.

The President identified several areas of policing operations which the conference should focus on, in order to improve the operational effectiveness and efficiency of the GPF.

Among the areas he identified were adequate response to match the increasingly sophisticated methods being employed by criminals, and how communications, information technology (IT) and forensics could be swiftly improved.

In this regard, the President urged the Commissioner to prepare a plan and said government will obtain the requisite financial resources, and if it cannot be funded from the treasury, funding from external resources will be sought.
Another area which the President stressed was the need for the GPF to understand and appreciate what he described as the sub-culture or sensitivities of individual communities. This, he noted, is crucial in ensuring that the GPF enjoys the confidence of communities, adding that if efforts are not made to grapple with this issue members of the force would be viewed by communities as being “harsh and uncaring.”

Image building, the President emphasised, is much more than just a mere public relations exercise. “It must have substance,” he exhorted, adding that the manner in which the GPF relates to people is of vital importance.

The President implored members of the GPF to see the need for accountability - not just for finance, but for all operational activities as well, both within the GPF and to the communities, and from the lowest to the highest levels.

Persons must be held responsible for inaction, he stressed, citing an example of such an occurrence at Unity, Mahaica, where he received several complaints of known persons peddling illegal drugs in the village but no action has been taken by the police there.

President Jagdeo also called on the conference to address how response time to reports of crimes could be improved, as well as improving the methods of gathering intelligence which is essential in preventing and unearthing crimes.

He added that management must be results oriented and not just deal with routine administrative matters, underscoring the need for systematic compilation and analysis of data on a daily basis to help pre-empt criminal trends in given communities.

Another issue of concern cited by the President is the inconsistency in sentencing convicted persons. This, he observed is sending the “wrong signals” to the police, but said this matter is being addressed.

Touching on the issue of alleged political interference in the work of the Police Commissioner, the President categorically denied any such interference. However, he explained that in his travels around the country he receives complaints and has to provide answers to the people to whom he is accountable, and in that context, he would seek clarifications from the Commissioner.

If that is seen as political interference it would not prevent him from seeking explanations in his pursuit to provide answers to the people, he asserted.

Earlier, Felix indicated that since assuming the Office of Commissioner he has not received any political interference, and does not anticipate any in the future.

Reiterating his government’s commitment to ensuring the GPF becomes a modern, effective and professional outfit, the President provided figures to show the increasing allocation of financial resources to the GPF.

He noted that 10 years ago the budgetary allocation was $600M and has now steeply increased to $3 billion, while the comparable figures for the same period for the Guyana Prison Service and the Guyana Fire Service are $75M and $450M and $33M and $305M respectively.

Dealing with the training of members of the GPF by British experts, President Jagdeo said this is a welcome gesture but the training must be “tailored to meet domestic realities” notwithstanding the need to learn from the experiences of other countries.

He issued a call to the conference to review the work of the GPF to see whether it has fulfilled its mandate and to generate more plans to meet the challenges and tasks ahead, and commended its collaborative approach in working in concert with Community Policing groups. “This is a step in the right direction,” he added.

President Jagdeo also urged the conference to examine the recommendations of the CARICOM Task Force on cross-border cooperation and collaboration in the fight against crime in the region.