Parliament urged to establish public safety commission
June 14, 2004
THE Disciplined Services Commission (DSC) has recommended that a Commission on Public Safety be established by Parliament to safeguard public interest in matters of safety.
The DSC envisages that this Commission would hold the Minister of Home Affairs accountable to Parliament in a way similar to the function being performed by the Public Accounts Committee in relation to the Finance Minister.
"Consideration might however be given to issues such as the need for the Police to report regularly to the public on its work, both by an annual report and other such materials; the collection and dissemination of statistics about levels of crime (and different kinds of crime), and Police success and failure rates, which would allow the public to assess what is and is not working well; and the need for the Police to improve its public relations function," the report recommended.
The report of the DSC noted that policing is carried out for the good of the general public and, therefore, the public has a right through elected representatives to hold the Police to account, adding that ensuring the accountability of the Police in matters of public safety is an issue of paramount importance in terms of national security.
The report recalled that in 1989 Parliament established the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) to address improper or unlawful conduct by members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF), conferring it with functional independence.
However, the DSC found that while the PCA is extrinsic to the GPF and is functionally independent, the effectiveness of its functional independence is necessarily limited by, and to the extent of its statutory functions.
"In this crucial area of investigative supervision, the Commission has recommended in Section Eight of this Report that the supervisory, investigative power of the PCA should in time be extended to other categories of serious offences, for example, corrupt practices and that the Minister, in the performance of his duty under Section 5 of the PCA Act, should provide the PCA with officers capable of assisting him in his supervisory investigative function. Such officers should not be members of the GPF even though former officers of the GPF can be appointed. The idea is not only to extend or expand the statutory powers of the PCA but to strengthen its institutional capabilities so that the GPF can be made more effectively accountable to civilian authority for alleged professional misconduct which has a serious criminal element," the Report emphasised.
The DSC further stated that the PCA must possess the institutional capability to discharge its statutory functions, because as a legal institution which is crucial to the accountability of members of the GPF for criminal and serious kinds of misconduct to civilian authority, it will remain weak and ineffectual and fail to inspire public confidence.