An Unbribable Police Commissioner for Guyana?

An Unbribable Police Commissioner for Guyana?
Photo : David Ramnarine
Guyana’s President David Granger says he is seeking ‘unbribable’ Commissioner of Police” (COP) and is not going “foreign".  Going “foreign” may suggest an unbribable COP can’t be found in Guyana among the ranks and has no confidence in Guyanese to head the police force. So the President stresses he is looking local. In surveys conducted by this writer, Guyanese view their police force as extremely corrupt and ineffective to deter crime or solve criminal issues. One cannot disagree with the Guyana President on the issue of police corruption and an unbribable COP. The public has enough of police graft. One must applaud the President for at least attempting to address the issue of crime and corruption within the force. We need honest, corrupt free police, and if you talk to Guyanese they will tell you few police fall in that category. Currently, David Ramnarine is the Acting COP. The President has not offered any reason for not confirming him. The President should seek the view of the political opposition in appointing a top cop.
Foreign or local COP, public confidence in the COP and police force is critical. “Going foreign” does not mean crime will decrease or police corruption will end. In neighboring Trinidad, there was a foreign COP and several advisors costing millions of US dollars, yet crime accelerated out of control along with complaints against the police. And the local police commissioners have not been effective in reducing crime in Guyana.
The President is right that there is limited public trust in the police force and that the public faith in the police force must be restored.
 Surveys conducted by this writer affirm that feeling.
The police department ought to be steered in the direction of winning public confidence. The police and the new or current COP must understand that they are the servants of the people and they must take steps to win over the public rather than be a pest to the public. There are hard working honest police officers; but some are giving the police a bad image in demanding bribe and or engaging in serious crimes. These bad elements must be weeded out of the force as well as prosecuted.
The police service commission, the President, and the Public Security Minister are in a best position to determine the type of leadership and skills required to manage the affairs of the police department and to produce a corrupt free force.
What is indisputable is that the police have been unable to effectively address crime and criminals with a workable policy. Everywhere, almost everyone will tell you that they are totally fed up with the runaway crime and police who shake them down for money. People are willing to try anything (including foreigners in positions and any draconian strategy) to bring down the crime stats and end police corruption.
Providing effective leadership, regardless of who is chosen, will determine the success in commanding the police and in tackling crime and corruption. Fighting crime is both strategic and operational. One cannot continue doing the same thing and expect different results. Ultimately, success at combating crime and winning over public confidence will depend on the strategy and tactics used by the COP and the police department to go after criminals and to prevent crime. There may, for example, be need for say more police beat patrolling areas that can help to deter crime. The police can be outfitted with body cameras that can deter requests for bribe.
The police has been outfitted with a sleuth of new vehicles and all kinds of technology. No amount of money, new vehicles, technology, or a foreign COP will reduce crime unless the culture of the police force is addressed. The new COP will have to take measures to change the police culture into one that encourages them to more effectively carry out their tasks and to ground with communities. This will help to restore confidence and trust in the police. People will begin to change their perception of the police as bribe seekers.
A proper motivating and performing culture is a must to be effective in tackling crime. Incentives or additional compensation have to be offered to induce performance that will ultimately lead to a reduction in graft complaints and greater public confidence in the police force. New measures of performance evaluation based on relations with the public should be used for promotion and salary increments -- this would change police behavior and the public perception of the police.
And the public will not have faith in the police if their behavior doesn't change. And if police don’t have the confidence of the public, they will not succeed.
Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram