Police - Public Cooperation
Guyana Chronicle
August 15, 2004

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IN VARIOUS states of our Caribbean Community, a current common call is for the police to take "drastic action" as necessary to combat the upsurge in killings, armed robberies and other vicious crimes.

The latest such plea has come from the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Commerce in the wake of the murder of three policemen in three weeks as that country continues to be gripped by fear over ongoing kidnapping crimes.

Among the four leading CARICOM states, Barbados has normally escaped being categorised as a major centre of shooting deaths and violent crimes. Now, armed banditry and a spate of rapes with foreign tourists among increasing victims over recent months, have provoked media outcries for firm and concerted action by the police.

From Jamaica in the northern sub-region to Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago in the south, the police services of CARICOM countries are coming under growing pressures to respond competently and effectively to the escalating crime wave.

The hope is that they will seek, as much as humanly possible, to act with restraint and in accordance with the law in their line of duty.

At this time, a fatal shooting by the police of a mechanic in Berbice has sparked demands for a thorough and speedy investigation. There should be no rush to judgement, nor any attempt at cover-up.

The problems posed by criminals who create horrors for too many, are quite serious enough for the Guyana Police Force to work for and be able to secure the widest possible cooperation from the public to beat back the criminals.

The Obligation Just last week, during his visit to Berbice and meetings with community policing groups (CPGs), Police Commissioner Winston Felix took the opportunity to emphasise how vital it is for the police to secure the public's cooperation in the fight against criminality.

While rightly appealing for such public cooperation, the Guyana Police Force has an obligation also to avoid being overwhelmed by persistent allegations in some quarters of killings by a phantom death squad that includes members of the Force.

This matter is currently engaging the attention of a Presidential Commission. Let the Commission do its work and let Police Commissioner Felix be seen to be unfolding new strategies to deal with the criminals.

If resorting to "drastic actions" may result in some inconveniences for the business community and the public at large - whether from roadblocks, surprised raids and searches, or other legitimate initiatives - then the affected communities across this nation would ultimately come to understand the necessity for such actions in order to ensure a more safe and desirable environment.

This must be done even as our Police Force fervently works to remove existing distrust and build public confidence.

In the final analysis, this country, like every civilised society that accepts the rule of law, must demonstrate its appreciation that our police are the guardians of the peace. Therefore, citizens should be increasingly sensitised to the necessity for working with them against the criminals - wherever and whoever they are.