251 complaints against Police last year

Kaieteur News
January 7, 2007

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Neglect of duty was among the leading complaints made against members of the force at the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) during the course of last year.

This is according to PCA Chairman, Justice Cecil Kennard, who revealed that of the 251 complaints reported, 122 centered on neglect.

Kennard explains that neglect of duty constitutes situations whereby officers fail to perform their policing obligations. He posits that the police officers are sometimes reluctant to act on cases based on the person reporting the matter.

“Police have a duty to deal with any issue…The majority of people reporting matters are unaware of certain procedures and sometimes may become aggressive if they are not understood. Police need to be more tolerant,” Kennard stressed.

Other concerns arising from complaints are that citizens, sometimes for minor traffic offences, are made to wait for lengthy periods at police stations. “In such cases persons shouldn't even have to go to the station. This is only needed if the person's identity is questionable,” Kennard informed.

However, he notes in the event that it is necessary for the defaulting citizen be taken to the station that person should be released within two hours.

Cases of minor offences such as assault should not be grounds for police to have citizens remain in the lock-ups. Kennard declares that unless their disposition proves to be hostile, such persons should simply be placed on station bail and given a date to return to court.

Another issue of concern, Kennard disclosed, is the fact that some citizens are made to repeatedly visit police stations pending an investigation.

“This should not be the case! Officers should just give citizens a date to return, whether within two or three weeks, whenever they think the investigation would have concluded.”

Other complaints reported were unlawful arrests, acts to discredit the police force, unlawful killings, use of unnecessary violence, discharging loaded firearms, wanting in civility, corrupt transactions, wrongful deduction of money, wrongful dismissal, attempted murder, child support and illegal searches.

In previous years, the complaints were for neglect of duty, unlawful arrests, unlawful killings, use of unnecessary violence, corrupt transactions, wanton incivility to the public, acting in a manner to discredit the police force and wrongful seizure of property.

In 2001, there were 44 complaints. Two years later this number rose to 215, then to 239 in 2004 and 276 in 2005.

Of the reported cases, Kennard said that he is still awaiting accompanying reports from the respective regions. This, he said is rooted in the unduly lengthy period some divisions take to deal with reports before submitting them to the PCA.

Kennard said that this situation has persisted over the number of years. Officers defy the six to eight-week deadline for submission, sometimes taking as long as six to eight months.

Prior to the departure of former Police Commissioner Winston Felix, Kennard said that he had had some discussions with the Top Cop to rectify the situation.

He said that he was particularly impressed with the decision to increase foot patrols in the city.

He believes that this has served to lend some level of comfort to citizens.

The Police Complaints Authority is tasked with instituting disciplinary measures against police officers with the assistance and intervention from the Director of Public Prosecution.

Complaints are investigated by the Commissioner of Police and, based on his findings, disciplinary measures are instituted.

(Sharmain Grainger)