The Guyana Police Force is the principal agency of the State concerned with enforcing the law. The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, at Article 197 (A) states:
“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 suppressing crime to ensure citizens are safe in their homes, the streets and other places.”
The Police Act, at Section 3 (2), tasks the Guyana Police Force with:
“… the prevention and detection of crime, the preservation of law and order, the preservation of the peace, the repression of internal disturbance, the protection of property, the apprehension of offenders and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which it is directly charged…”
The Guyana Police Force can fulfil these tasks effectively only if it is commanded by a corps of officers who are competent, committed and uncorrupted. The Force’s most senior officers must be men and women of proven independence, integrity and intelligence. The Force must be able to enjoy the trust of the public.
The Constitution, at Article 137, mandates the establishment of a Police Service Commission. The appointment of the ‘Commission’ has followed the provisions laid down in the Constitution.
The National Assembly, on 25th June 2018, approved the names of four nominees to the ‘Commission’. Meaningful consultations were held, on 19th July 2018, with the Leader of the Opposition on the appointment of the Chairperson of the Commission. The fifth member, in accordance with the Constitution, is to be the Chairperson of the Public Service Commission.
The Constitution, subject to Article 211(1), vests the President with the authority to appoint the Commissioner of Police and every Deputy Commissioner of Police. The Constitution states:
“The Commissioner of Police and every Deputy Commissioner of Police shall be appointed by the President acting after meaningful consultation with the Leader of the Opposition and Chairperson of the Police Service Commission after the Chairperson has consulted with the other members of the Commission.”
I intend to engage in meaningful consultations with both the Chairperson of the Police Service Commission and the Leader of the Opposition with respect to the appointment of a substantive Commissioner of Police as soon as practical. Consistent with my Government’s plan for security sector reform, I shall appoint the Commissioner and four Deputy Commissioners of Police.
The Constitution, at Article 212 (1), vests the Commission with:
“…power to make appointments to any offices in the Police Force of or above the rank of Inspector, the power to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices and the power to remove such from office…”
This is an important function in the present security situation. Security sector reform is being pursued. It is expected that future appointees will vigorously carry out the approved reforms which aim at:
– restoring public trust in the Force;
– reinforcing the Force’s capability to fight crime; and
– promoting men and women of the highest calibre to become officers.
Public trust in the Police Force and the need for Security Sector Reform have become more urgent following the presentation of the Report into the circumstances surrounding the killing of eight miners at Lindo Creek on or about 21st day of June 2008, commonly referred to as the Report of the Lindo Creek Commission of Inquiry.
That ‘Report” raised troubling questions about the role of the Defence and Police Forces during the ‘troubles’ and the reticence of the political administration of the day to provide useful evidence to the Commission of Inquiry into the massacre.
The ‘troubles’ was a dark period in our country’s history. The inability of the Police to arrest the outbreak of criminal violence quickly led to the emergence of so-called ‘phantom’ death squads. The ‘troubles” revealed, also, how drug lords had infiltrated the Force. The ‘troubles’ exposed the influence of a small but influential group of rogue officers. It revealed the need for more careful selection of officers and improved intelligence-gathering.
The Report’s recommendations will be acted upon in due course. The days of concealing security sector mistakes and misdeeds are over. The Force’s officers will be held accountable for the consequences of their actions and for the instructions they issue to their subordinates.
The Commission’s independent status can contribute to enhancing public trust in the Force, to boosting the morale of officers and to ensuring the efficacy of law enforcement.
The Commission’s powers of promotion can re-establish the principle of merit in the advancement of Officers. The Commission’s powers of discipline and dismissal, applied fairly, can encourage probity and discourage misconduct. The Commission’s support for the objectives of security sector reform can ensure that there will be, within the Force, a corps of senior officers committed to:
– effective police administration, operations, investigation and intelligence-gathering;
– ensuring sound leadership to subordinate officers and constables; and
– evincing the virtues of intelligence and integrity and being capable of securing the public trust
The appointment of the Commission, therefore, is essential to Police Force efficiency and to state security.