The law is the North Star
-Felix tells community policing groups
Stabroek News
May 31, 2004

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Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj, at the rostrum, makes a point at the community policing conference yesterday. Sitting at the head table from left are a policing group member, Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix and Deputy Commissioner, Operatio

Commissioner of Police, Winston Felix yesterday admonished members of Community Policing Groups (CPGs) to remain focussed on their goal to achieve safer communities and operate always according to the law.

Felix, speaking at the Conference and Annual General Meeting of Community Policing Groups yesterday at the Police Officer's Mess, Eve Leary, told the CPG members present that quite recently the issue of office holding had become a cause for concern in a certain area.

"I hope that that situation has resolved itself and will never resurface again because our role is not really about office (holding), our role is really to make our communities safer and to take steps with the police to devise those strategies which will enable us to work together to reduce the problems which are there."

However, the commissioner reminded that in the problem-solving, their community group members must not forget that they are all servants of the law.

"We must in the execution of our duties perform in conformity with the law, the law is the big one, the law is the North Star. We cannot ask of persons in the society to obey the law and we break it. We must ensure that persons who are arrested are taken care of in a manner prescribed by the law and we cannot and should not harbour ill feelings if the law goes against us for wrong doing."

The commissioner noted that policemen are faced with the same problem adding that they all have to operate within the confines of the law.

"Numerous policemen, before my time, during my time and long after my time once they commit (a crime) they will be charged. So I don't like hearing this business about the police against community policing groups, that's not it, the police contrary to what some people think are more rigid on investigation within, nobody can be more ruthless in the investigation of policemen."

In a more friendly tone Felix told the conference, being held under the theme: `Sustaining Community Policing through Training and Commitment' that once the guidelines are observed there is no need to consider corrective actions in the form of prosecution.

He declared that the business of securing the communities should be dealt with in a very professional manner.

"...Because I respect everyone of you here as professionals and respectable people in your communities …that is why the police will associate with you because we know you to be good people and we don't expect that you would allow emotions to rule when you are faced with a confrontation." He advised that such a situation is the time when discipline is demanded of them to remember that their duties end there and the state must take over.

"And once we keep along that line I don't see the need for there to be any ill feelings in the relationship between the police and community policing groups. I want to assure you of my support in this business of law enforcement and mores through the support partnership we (the police force) get from the community policing groups."

He told his first community policing conference since being appointed as commissioner that the groups can achieve safer communities through various forms including patrolling, mere passing of information from the community to the police and regular meetings between the community and the public.

"I would dream... I would hope of a situation where in every police station district there is at least one community policing group. Law enforcement cannot exist, law enforcement cannot achieve the best result it can achieve unless it works with the public. It is the public from whom the police should draw support and strength in the performance of its duties," Felix said.

"And who are best placed to talk to the police? You, the public, I would wish therefore to here instruct all divisional commanders that we must work towards having in every station district at least one community policing group. So that we can draw from the public what are there problems, so that we can work with them to solve those problems, so that we can have the crime-fighting components in the form of patrols and we can have the problem-solving component of community policing where the police and the community reach and discuss problems."

Also addressing the conference was Minister of Home Affairs, Ronald Gajraj. He concurred with what Felix said in his address advising the group members that they are there to assist the force and not be a substitute for it.

He warned that the police would not compromise their professionalism when developing a relationship with the community. He told the members that they must at all times understand the parameters under which they are expected to operate.

The minister said that the importance of training couldn't be over-emphasised since it is vital to their survival.

The minister advised the group members that they must avoid confrontation with residents and do all they can to rid their communities of crime and criminal activities.

There are six divisions in the country and 228 policing groups with a membership of 6,130.

Yesterday, a new executive was elected to serve while during the conference a report on the previous year was delivered.