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|By Paul Slowe CCH, DSM, Assistant Commissioner of Police (Ret’d)
I noted with great concern the serious allegations made on social media by a serving member of the Guyana Police Force.
The allegations made by the sergeant relate to the murder of Ricardo Fagundes aka “Paper Shorts” who was gunned down outside the Palm Court Club in Main Street, Georgetown in March 2021, the cover-up by senior ranks of the Criminal Investigations Department of the Guyana Police Force and the payment of a large bribe to a named officer as part of the cover-up.
I also noted a statement attributed to the Leader of the Alliance for Change and former Public Security Minister Khemraj Ramjattan, which stated that there should be an immediate investigation by the Police Complaints Authority into the allegations.
I pointed out previously that Section 14 of the Police Complaints Authority Act, Chapter 17:02, empowers the Police Complaints Authority to ‘supervise’ specific criminal allegations levelled against members of the Guyana Police Force.
Those allegations are:
1. Complaint or information that any member of the force has unlawfully caused the death of any person.
2. Doing bodily harm by wanton misconduct.
3. Assault causing actual bodily harm.
4. Unlawful wounding.
5. Discharging loaded firearm with intent.
6. Felonious wounding.
7. Such other offences as may be specified by the Minister.
The usual practice, as provided for in the above named Act, is for one or more members of the Guyana Police Force to conduct the investigation, which is “supervised” by the Police Complaints Authority.
The Criminal Investigations Department of the Guyana Police Force is tasked with the investigation of serious crimes. The Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), which is a unit within the Guyana Police Force can also investigate serious crimes that fall within the scope of that unit.
However, having regards to the nature of the allegations, and the fact that the Police Complaints Authority can only “supervise” specific investigations conducted by the member (s) of the Force, I am of the view that the investigation into the damning allegations made by the sergeant should not be investigated by any member or unit of the Guyana Police Force.
It is my view that the Guyana Police Force, as currently staffed, lacks the credibility to conduct a conscientious investigation into these serious allegations against senior member of the Force and the businessman named in the allegation.
The statement by the administration of the Guyana Police Force that the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) has been instructed to commence an investigation is laughable. The statement is ambiguous; it does not state what is to be investigated.
The Office of Professional Responsibility lacks the personnel and credibility to conduct an investigation of this nature. Of note is that some of the members of the Force against whom the allegations are levelled are far senior in rank to the most senior rank at the Office of Professional Responsibility.
I remember some years ago when a serious criminal allegation was made against a senior member of the Force, help was sought and obtained from a sister CARICOM country to assist in the investigation. That assistance gave credibility to the investigative process.
I am of the view that if the authorities are serious about getting to the bottom of this very serious allegation made by a serving member of the Force (it would be mind boggling if they are not), the only acceptable option is for a team of competent independent investigators to be assembled to conduct the investigation. Anything less will be unacceptable.
I recall after the fire which completely destroyed several buildings in the Brickdam police compound both the President and the Vice President stated that overseas help would be sought to investigate the cause of the fire. That did not materialize.
Notwithstanding that failure, being a perennial optimist, I am still hopeful that given the very serious nature of this recent allegation and its potential to further damage the ailing image of the Guyana Police Force, and by extension Guyana, they will see the need to urgently seek overseas assistance to get to the bottom of these nocuous allegations.
This matter should be seen in the wider national security context.