President David Granger: Please be seated. Thank you, Commissioner, for your kind introduction. I’d like to assure you that yesterday afternoon I signed the Appropriation Act so the dinner tomorrow night is the real thing. [Laughter.]
It’s always good to be here; the largest landowner in North Georgetown, the Guyana Police Force. A lot of real estate here and I am very proud of the work that you have been doing during 2016. So it’s especially an honour, too, to be able to deliver this first address as President to the Annual Officers Conference.
Prime Minister, Mr. Moses Nagamootoo; Honourable Khemraj Ramjattan, Vice President and Minister of Public Security; other Ministers of Government; Members of the Diplomatic Corps; Chief of Staff of the Guyana Defence Force; Heads of the Joint Services; acting Chief Justice, Ms. Yonette Cumming-Edwards; Judge Claudette Singh; Members of the Police Service Commission; Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, Justice [Cecil] Kennard; senior and junior officers; members of the media; ladies and gentlemen:
Safe communities are the core of a secure country. Our approach to human development is rooted in the belief that each citizen performs best in a safe community of people who share common values. Our approach is to encourage citizens to take pride in their homes, in their communities, in their villages, their neighbourhoods, their regions and their country. Our approach is about respecting and protecting the most vulnerable members of society, the elderly, the women, the children, especially girl children. We’re therefore disturbed that so many crimes are committed in our communities. A 78 year old woman, a widow, who is raped and murdered or a 14 year old school girl, who is raped and murdered; when a group of village louts can burn down a house and kill the residents inside; when a wife hires a villager to kill her husband by hire purchase or vice versa; when a husband hires somebody to kill his wife depending on who gets there first; when a boy and girl who think they love each other have their friendship discountenanced by their parents and they go off and kill one another; when a housewife opens a little drugstore selling ganja; when the screams and the shrieks of an abused wife are ignored; these are community offences and it is in the community that we must put our policing efforts if we are to protect our citizens to make them safe.
So the safety of citizens in their homes and in their communities is our greatest and foremost concern. Our communities must be places that foster healthy, happy, harmonious households; citizens must be able to live in communities without fear of being robbed or being abused. Safe communities are necessary for the good life and we cannot achieve the good life in the absence of human safety. The sanctity and privacy of homes must be safeguarded, must be protected from criminal invasion and also from interpersonal violence.
The Guyana Police Force has as its principal objective to ensure the safety of citizens. That mandate was assigned to them by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana which states, and I quote “…the police force, established under the Police Act shall function in accordance with the law as the law enforcement agency of the State, responding to the daily need to maintain law and order by supressing crime to ensure that citizens are safe in their homes, the streets and in other places.”
So ladies and gentlemen, the Force’s foremost responsibility is to ensure that citizens are safe. The Force must surmount this challenge and fulfil its mandate to the Guyanese people; it must fulfil its obligations under the Constitution; it must honour its duty under the law to keep our people and our communities safe. In this regard, the Police Force has a fourfold role in crime fighting.
• It must prevent crime
• It must protect property and life
• It must preserve law and order
• It must prosecute offenders
These four functions are necessary, but they are not sufficient for, if the police are to win the war against crime and violence, it cannot ignore the causes of crime and every time I pass by Young Street I cannot help but notice the monument, which was established in the wake of the most grievous spate of criminal violence in post-independence Guyana. More policemen were killed in the first decade of this new millennium than ever before or ever after in its 176-year history and we must examine the causes of ‘the troubles’ which occurred during that period, roughly between 2000 and 2010. It is true, as the commissioner reported; the Force has been paying attention to the prevention of crime. It has reached out to vulnerable groups and communities. It must, however, go beyond mere outreach and build partnerships with communities, it must intensify its partnership through community policing and working with our community schools, community clubs and organisations and civil society.
The Force, therefore, has to uphold that unwritten social contract between citizens and the state. Citizens are assumed to have consented to conform to the law for the common good and, in return, the State is assumed to be responsible for the physical integrity and the protection of citizens’ property and lives. The State through the Police Force is obligated to uphold its side of the social contract, and our Government is committed to ensuring that citizens remain safe, but Guyana’s rate of serious crime, of armed robbery, of arson, of banditry, of murder, of rape, of piracy is a result of over two decades of deliberate disregard for the essential needs of human safety.
The rejection of the United Kingdom’s financing of the Security Sector Reform Action Plan, the neglect of the National Drug Strategy Master Plan, the shelving of reports of the Disciplined Forces Commission and a dozen other consultancies and studies mainly from the United Kingdom were not accidental. This Government will implement the longstanding plans to reform the security sector. We will bring a new approach, one that not only suppresses crime, but also addresses the causes of crime. This approach is meant to make Guyana safer for our women, our children and vulnerable members of society.
The cost of human safety today is high, too high. The cost could be calculated, when you go around the city and the countryside and see the steel grilled barricades at restaurants, at doors and windows, even of private residences. The price of safety is to be calculated by the proliferation of private security firms, by the large number of persons who keep on applying to own firearms for their personal safety – the Minister of Public Security can tell you if he gets five letters from me a week, four of them concern applications for firearms. The price is measured also in the employment of armed sentries at our gold and diamond mining firms. Communities must be secure against crime and violence.
We, therefore, need to adapt a more collaborative culture if we are to make human safety a reality. We must, therefore, be prepared to have a second look at the current highly centralised system of policing, one that was developed when we had a highly centralised sugar industry, which focused on the suppression of riots on the plantations. We must develop a system which is now based on human safety in our communities rather than the safety of the sugar industry. Our sparsely populated and scattered rural and hinterland communities make highly centralised policing impossible. It is impossible to establish a police station in every village. Our landscape, with a population density of only 3.5 per square kilometre means that many communities are located not only far apart from each other but a far distance from police stations. We have to build a system in which residents of those villages and communities can be assured of security even in the absence of police stations.
The Police Force must therefore begin to develop a strategy for improving human safety in all of our communities without necessarily building more police stations; and this is the strategy that will result in the evolution of our existing concept of community policing. Community policing is not a substitute, it is a supplement for regular policing. Community policing does not mean recruiting an army of vigilantes. It means building a partnership between the Police Force and the residents. The Police Force must work with communities to offer options to our young people, many of them dropping out of school who then end up being unemployed and susceptible to becoming involved in criminal activity. Civil society has a pivotal role to play in keeping communities safe by working with the police force as partners.
We need more patrols as a means of preventing and deterring crimes. They help to ensure greater visibility of our police within communities and we must not be afraid of foot patrols, bicycle patrols and now, as you’ve noticed, horse patrols will return to the hinterland, to the Rupununi region. So whether by boat, whether by foot, whether by vehicle or horse we must go to where these community crimes exist and where community safety has to be assured, to allow our regular police to work alongside residents in order to deter crime. We are aware that over the decades of its existence the concept of community policing has been battered. Sometimes community policing groups collapse; some remain inactive for long periods of time despite the establishment of a community policing secretariat and the establishment of community policing executives. These groups rise and fall.
Over the past 15 years the previous administration developed a multidimensional approach and tried to create several parallel schemes. At one stage we all recall seeing our own Head of State having a chat at State House with a Mr. Bernard Kerik, who was soon to go to a correctional facility, but we needn’t experiment with CPGs and neighbourhood policing programmes, crime stopper schemes. We need to examine what needs to be done in Guyana in order to make our communities safe.
This administration, like the previous one, can benefit from the voluminous reports of the National Steering Committee on Crime, which carried out a series of public consultations; the recommendation of the Disciplined Forces Commission, which was established in 2003; the advice of the National Commission on Law and Order which was established in 2005; and the numerous studies from the United Kingdom experts including the metropolitan police, the Scottish Police College and others.
So there’s an enormous body of reports, programmes, schemes, strategies, on top of which we have, as the Vice President will tell you when he speaks with you, an extension of the citizens security programme. You, the officers, who have congregated here in your annual consultation must measure the efficacy of all of these schemes and determine and advise and recommend what is the best course forward. It is my view that community policing is a common good, but unfortunately that concept has been subject to bizarre interpretations over the years.
Some persons traced the concept of community policing to the disturbances of 1964, 52 years ago just before independence. During those disturbances, as you know, 176 persons were killed in communities, but merely adapting that scheme simply displaces regular policing with the establishment of vigilantes and we don’t want that because many vigilante groups could turn out to be ethnic militias, which aggravate the problems of insecurity rather than alleviate the problem; and if we maintain that schema of community policing they’ll become exclusive clubs, leaving out a large part of the population, which is exactly what happened. On the other hand, if community policing is inclusive, it can contribute measurably to human safety.
The present incarnation of community policing could be traced back, I think, to 1976 and some may want to celebrate the 40th anniversary this year when the old vigilante concept metamorphosed into crime prevention committees. But community policing is not a group; it is a process, it is a practice, it is a procedure that promotes problem solving techniques and improves public safety by forging bonds of trust between the police and the public. It is not a group with the three ‘Bs’ – berets, bicycles and bracelets. It is not a separate organisation; it is a function, not a parallel police force, one run by Brickdam and one run in Eve Leary.
It is meant to be a function because the Constitution gives the Police Force the responsibility to safeguard the safety of the citizens; and the Disciplined Forces Commission, in Recommendation Number 48, states that “community policing must be brought within the full ambit of the law and it must not be allowed to remain lawless or an outlaw”.
The Commissioner of Police must bear responsibility under the law for community policing, which must support professional law enforcement – support, not supplant, professional law enforcement. [Applause.]
(I could always depend on another David. We have a club of ‘Davids’, you know.) [Laughter.] Community policing therefore, has an important role to play, and in some divisions we must ensure that this function does not become a victim of political policing in which some villages have efficient policing, community policing functions and others do not have because of the favouritism or the hostility of the administration at the time.
Some must not be perceived as protecting special interests and ignoring the common good. Community policing in most countries that I am familiar with see the police as members of the community where they live and work. There are therefore more beat duty-policemen rather than station-bound functionaries; as a result more community work gets done because the police are out there where people live. People don’t live in the stations. The basic idea is that there should be bonds of mutual trust between the police and the public.
Community policing establishes partnerships and these partnerships emphasise problem solving and they place emphasis on public safety and public service with the aim of improving the quality of life. Community policing, correctly conceived and competently conducted, would therefore require a sea change in the way things are being done at present because there may be a temptation for some police officers to become preoccupied with prosecution and punishment rather than the prevention of crime and the protection of citizens. Some policemen understand this concept, but others need to be retrained to think critically, to listen, to understand and to solve problems. It is easy to make cases but it is much more difficult to solve problems.
Ministers and Divisional Commanders over the past few decades have frequently complained about underperforming and dysfunctional community policing groups. This, I believe, is because they see community policing as a group which is separate and distinct from the regular police. One complaint and I quote: “Several persons do not understand the role of CPGs.” End of quote. We challenge them to make determined efforts to bridge the disconnect between themselves and their respective communities. This disconnect exists as much between policing groups and the communities as between communities and the police force as a whole.
Again, another Divisional Commander accused community policing groups of having lost their focus and invited them to re-examine their role and legal status to determine whether their mandate was relevant to today’s society. Clearly, if after nearly four decades, the reliability of community policing is still questionable something must have gone wrong. The basic question to be answered by you, the police officers of today, is this: is community policing intended to be a parallel force under the control of someone else, maybe an elected official in Brickdam, or part of a professional force trained under the command of the commissioner in Eve Leary? Give me another Amen, David.
President David Granger: Thank you.
The solution, therefore, does not lie in the adaption of the so called new organisation. What is needed is a comprehension of the role of the community and the role of the Police Force in solving those crimes where they exist – the domestic violence, the suicide, the raping of old women. These are the crimes that need to be solved at the grassroots level in the divisions, in the villages. Community policing, therefore, is of utmost importance to our administration but it has to function efficiently and effectively as an aspect of professional policing. It is, therefore, our obligation to make sure that the Police Force has what it needs. It must have sufficient manpower; it must be brought up to establishment strength. It must be correctly deployed, and that is why the commander of ‘F’ Division, for the first time in history, is now living and working in ‘F’ Division and not in Rabbit Walk.
The Police Force must ensure that all of its members are trained, managed, commanded, led, in order to enable the force to function effectively and efficiently. We have to give the police the all-terrain vehicles, the forensic laboratories, the river boats, the aircraft, to allow it to fight banditry in the hinterland, piracy on the coastland, to prevent drugs from entering the country, to prevent contraband and gun running.
Today Commissioner, officers of the Guyana Police Force, I commend to you, I re-commend to you, I ask you to reconsider the concept of community policing. For me it is central to keeping human beings safe in this country. It is not something peripheral that we should ignore or treat as a rival. I urge you to recommit yourselves to comprehending more completely real policing of communities. I congratulate you on the changes Commissioner, that you have embarked on. As you may know, officers, we re-established the National Security Committee and every single week the Commissioner has to report to me and the Prime Minister and the Minister of Public Security and the Minister of Legal Affairs to account for the level of crime and security in this country.
So we are fully engaged and we are fully committed to giving the Force what it needs to keep Guyana safe and to make sure that our citizens are not victims of abuse. This is what I commend to you. I congratulate you on your ability to solve crimes more quickly than before and we have conveyed our congratulations to the Commissioner, to the persons who are responsible for bringing these crimes to the court more quickly. Too many cold cases, and now we’re seeing the changes and I told the Commissioner that we will give the CID everything it needs to ensure that investigations are not interrupted or delayed. [Applause.]
The entire country looks to the Force to ensure human safety and today I’d like to commend you and ask you to consider and reconsider this concept of community policing. Do not take it for granted. Guyana needs you and our citizens need an efficient Police Force.
I thank you; and congratulations.

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