Police to target schools
Guyana Chronicle
August 11, 2004

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`…in Guyana today…there is the public on one side and the police on [another] side. That is unnecessary’ – Police Commissioner Winston Felix
By Ruel Johnson
POLICE Commissioner Winston Felix is looking at introducing police public awareness talks in schools as the Police Force moves to expand ties with communities.

He Monday night said he has noticed an increase in violence in schools and hopes that police interactions with students might help to rectify the situation.

If the Police Force is to be relevant to the society, it must understand the various components of the society, including youth, and the diverse racial and cultural makeup of Guyana, he said.

Mr Felix outlined his programme at a public lecture hosted by the Lions Club of Bel Air, at the Bel Air Lions Den in Georgetown.

He said the Police Force recognises the need for better interaction with the general public.

The force, he noted, derives its existence from the public, since it arises out of the need for social control.

Because of this, it is always best for police officers to come out of the communities in which they operate, he argued.

"If you come from the community," said Felix, "you ought to be familiar with the problem and familiar with the people, to interact with them and arrive at solutions."

He said it is always desirable for the Police Force to have the best relationship possible with the general public, a policy that the force should actively pursue.

The police are focussing on upgrading their public relations efforts, since a lack of positive interaction with the public creates unnecessary friction and makes the work of the force far more difficult, the top cop explained.

He said that modern day public relations is a complex affair, consisting of various components, adding that he is actively seeking to have members of the force upgrade their PR skills and to reform the basic general interaction with the public, the media and various sections of society.

"We find in Guyana today that there is the public on one side and the police on [another] side. That is unnecessary.”

One way that the force and the public can work together, according to the Commissioner, is the establishment of community policing groups.

Felix stressed that he supports the concept of community policing but not necessarily as it is currently practiced in Guyana.

"I think that we might have to explore other models. As I've been trying to inject into my recent visit to Berbice, the idea of a new model.

“I would like to see the day when representatives from a community can come together and meet with a designated police officer and discuss problems and try to work on them. Within another month, they come back and report on the issues raised at the last meeting, updating on what actions were taken and what successes were achieved as well as the things that they were not able to do.”

He feels such monthly exchanges will help the public better understand the police and the police “will gain more from the public."

Felix pointed out that the public is the major source of information for the police and as such all efforts should be made to establish clear channels of communication.

"History has shown that where there is little interaction between the police and the public, there is friction, there is mistrust, there is misrepresentation of facts and a whole host of other undesirable interventions, as we have seen right here."

A good relationship with the media is also crucial to police work, he said, adding that it was important for the force to have the media on its side.

He argued, however, that media operatives must be more patient when trying to gain information from the police.

According to Felix, the media have to realise that the initial information received in any particular incident and may not represent all the facts of the case.

He said that sometimes an investigation starts out with police adopting one premise and ends with that premise completely shifted.

He said he would rather give out a little correct information than bow to the media into giving them unverified stories for them to publish.