Police reform, modernisation are imperatives
REFORM and modernisation of police forces are imperatives rather than options, consequently, this is an ongoing process in most countries, albeit in varying degrees and intensity as factors such as funding, human resources and needs etc., play a pivotal role.
As a result of the changing nature of crime, the growth of illicit drugs and technological advancement, police forces have to develop capacity and equip themselves to meet the new and changing challenges because the world is utilising more innovative means and technology in the execution of nefarious criminal activities.
Recently, Deputy Commissioner (Law Enforcement) Seelall Persaud said the project to reform and modernise the Guyana Police Force (GPF) now underway has indeed impacted on its operations. And while it may not be seen now, the results will be delivered to members of the public in the long term,
He said it is not likely that the results will be seen in the shorter term,but the long term is inevitable, since the reform process is taking place incrementally and its implementation needs to be taken very seriously and in stages.
The Crime Chief added that there is a certain part of the procedure to be completed before the public begins to really see the benefits of the reformation.
Pointing to some of the areas of change which are already in motion, he mentioned an integrated crime information system which is in place.
Mr. Persaud is correct. Changes almost always take time to yield the desired results, particularly when the human factor is involved. In our case, this may be the most important issue because, unfortunately, the general perception by the public of the police force is not a positive one. And this perception has been fuelled by the poor attitude and behaviour and unprofessionalism of some members of the police force.
Of course, the decline in professional standards did not happen overnight. In fact, it started during the colonial era when the police were used for partisan political purposes in the efforts to destabilise and remove the PPP government led by Dr Cheddi Jagan. After independence, this trend became even worse under the PNC government as the police were openly used to coerce, harass and intimidate political opponents. It was during this period too that bribery and corruption became more prevalent within the police force. This was exacerbated by banning of foods which triggered the contraband trade. In this situation, many members of the police force openly demanded money and other favours from the contraband traders.
So the reform process of the police force cannot involve only improving use of technology, training, research, equipment and other physical facilities, it also by necessity has to include revamping the image and culture of police ranks.
Perhaps because of its history of being used by the PNC to intimidate, harass and coerce political opponents, many members of the police force still see their role essentially as one of harassing people instead of being friends and partners of the people. Police work becomes much more difficult and challenging when people do not have trust and confidence in the police. And the modern trend in policing is for the police to form partnerships with civilians. Therefore, persistent and intensive work is needed to reverse the image of the police force and restore the confidence of people.
The other issue which is pivotal to reversing the fortunes of the police force is that of bribery and corruption. It has been widely acknowledged and recognised that some members of the police engage openly in demanding bribes and are immersed in corruption. This is perhaps the most serious problem affecting police work and the justice system as well. Therefore it is imperative that attention and innovative and uncompromising efforts are made to rid the police force of the plague of bribery and corruption. Admittedly, it is a tough task, but if this plague is not eradicated then the entire police force could become compromised and, by extension, the security of the state and its people.
We cannot wait any longer to deal with this plague. The time to start is now.