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By Mark DaCosta- In parts one and two of this series, crime was defined. It was established that a major contributor to Guyana’s disproportionately high crime rates is corruption and outright crime in the Guyana Police Force. This article will articulate specific recommendations for crime fighting. One notes that these well-thought-out recommendations have been in the public domain for many years, yet, the people who have the power to implement them have not done so. One is left to wonder why that is the case.
Mr. Fairbairn Liverpool is an internationally recognised security expert, he has had considerable experience in command and staff as a Military Officer in the Guyana Defence Force (GDF). He commanded from a Platoon to the Brigade and served in various staff appointments ultimately becoming the Force’s First Adjutant General. Seconded to the Guyana Public Service as Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, he was the Administrative Head of its several departments which included the Guyana Police Force, the Guyana Prison Service and the Guyana Fire Service.
Mr. Liverpool Published an academic article entitled TACKLING CRIME AND VIOLENCE WITHIN THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY. At the request of numerous news publications, the paper was summarised by Mr. Liverpool, and the summary was published across the Caribbean, including in two newspapers in Guyana.
Mr. Liverpool states that the underlying reason for corruption in the Guyana Police Force (GPF) is the fact that it has become politicised. He noted that the GPF has devolved into an arm of the governing party. As such, the expert made recommendations to reverse that state of affairs.
Mr. Liverpool wrote the following:
“Today, with the considerable powers entrenched in the hands of our politicians by virtue of the constitutions that govern us in the Commonwealth Caribbean, can we realistically expect a body like the Police Service Commission (PSC), appointed by a President or Prime Minister, to dictate to the President or Prime Minister who should or should not be appointed as Commissioner of Police (COP)?
Given the political, social and economic realities of life in the Caribbean, with the destructive and corruptive influence of drug money in all aspects of our lives, it is no surprise to hear that a ‘big one’ could have picked up a phone and call on the police to carry out any act, ‘legal’ or ‘illegal’.
“Why should the responsibility for discipline and promotion of any rank of the police force be that of the PSC? What are the choices of the honest COP who does not want to be politically controlled? Seeking consolation among the political opposition may present itself as an attractive option. What if the politics of a country is clouded by race or ethnic differences? How could the politicization of crime be kept in check in the small societies in which we live in the Caribbean?
Because of distrust of the police, it has been the tendency of some new governments to create intelligence and other law enforcement agencies independent of the police to conduct investigations and prosecute the criminality that might have occurred under former administrations. Some have been created as a counter balance to the police which have resulted in unnecessary but understandable professional rivalries and even conflict. Historically, these initiatives have turned out to be rather short lived because they have generally been perceived to be politically motivated and personality driven. As soon as administrations change, their utility value is brought into question. Those that have continued to exist sooner or later manifest symptoms of systemic corruption.”
The following are the last words in this series; they are the words of Mr. Liverpool himself:
“Strategies to Depoliticise Crime and Reduce Police Corruption.
The following are some of the strategies I offer for what they are worth with the hope that they may in some small way contribute to the debate to make the Caribbean Community safer:
Depoliticisation of Crime
- Establish a Parliamentary Sub-committee of National Security.
The Commissioner of Police (COP) should be required to give account of his stewardship to a Parliamentary Sub-Committee of National Security and not to the Minister responsible for national security. The Minister with the responsibility for national security in Parliament should, however, be the chairperson of that sub-committee and be the person responsible for reporting to Parliament on matters of public security. Appointing members of the parliamentary opposition on the sub-committee should go a long way towards reducing the blame game so prevalent currently in partisan politics;
- Authority to appoint the Commissioner of Police.
The appointment of the COP should be made by the Parliamentary Sub-Committee of National Security on the recommendation of the President or Prime Minister;
- Redesign of the Police Service Commission.
The Police Service Commission (PSC) is a relic of post colonialism, originally designed as a check and balance to control the police. The PSC should be redesigned to be a civilian oversight in the management of the police force, with authority to conduct fitness for role and administrative inspections of the police and report to the Parliamentary Sub-Committee of National Security.
- Establishment of a Police Performance Merit System.
The PSC should also be responsible for performance awards of a merit system based on performance indicators emanating from strategic plans of the police. The performance indicators should be focused on the team though not exclusively so. In this way, commanders of the teams would be held responsible for the performance of the members of his or her team. Also in this way, if a member of the team is guilty of any misconduct, the commander should be held responsible;
- Full Responsibility of Police to the Commissioner of Police.
The COP should be given full responsibility for the police including promotions and discipline for all ranks;
- Creation of A National Security Police Advisory Body.
This entity should be created as an advisory body on all public security policy matters to the Minister responsible for Public Security. It is recommended that the representatives of what the author called the ‘Five P’s’ comprise this advisory body:
The Politician (the Minister),
The Police (the COP),
The People’s representative perhaps from Civil Society,
The Professional or Expert in the field of crime and security who may/may not be picked from the ranks of academia; and
The Press for consistency but which refers to the presence of the media for the needed transparency and possible public information. Policy on public security should not be the responsibility of the politician alone. Unpopular policy decisions may be avoided with the participation of the people’s representative on the advisory body.
Reduction of Police Corruption
- Internal Police Oversight.
Given the full responsibility of all aspects of the police force’s work and administration in the hands of the COP, it is fitting that the mechanisms of internal police integrity monitoring as recommended in various reforms, be established within the force to report to and give support to the COP;
- Investigative and Prosecutorial Powers to the Police Complaints Authority (PCA). The PCA should be given full police powers and capacity to investigate allegations of police misconduct and prosecute any member of the police force independent of the police. Consideration should be given to subjecting the other law enforcement agencies independent of the police to the oversight of the PCA;
- Establishment of a Caribbean Police Service (CARIPOL). Most communities of nations have established supranational police organisations to perform certain functions in the interest of the member states of their communities. At the global level, there is Interpol and in the European Union there is Europol. Police literature speaks of the need to move police ranks tactically around the various police districts to avoid over familiarity that could breathe corruption.
In the small island states for most of the Caribbean, the employment of such a tactic would have severe limitations because of the smallness of the country and population. Therefore, the establishment of a regional mechanism under the umbrella of a CARIPOL would not only facilitate the employment of such police tactics but would also serve as a tremendous learning experience for the visiting ranks working at various levels from the streets to the offices within various member states. The presence of strangers among the ranks of the local police will also serve as a deterrent to petty corrupt practices. Through CARIPOL also legal mechanisms could be established to facilitate various assistance programmes to the forces in need;
- Establishment of a Mutual Evaluation Mechanism among Region Police Forces. Under CARIPOL, a mutual evaluation mechanism not unlike the one in existence within the Caribbean Financial Action Task Force (CFATF) could be established to ensure compliance to universal professional police practices agreed on by the Association of Caribbean Commissioners of Police (ACCP); and finally
- LEGALISE IT.This needs no explanation.
In conclusion, I wish to once again emphasise that the above are just some thoughts being offered for consideration. They are not intended as criticisms or to dictate public policy but rather to highlight the pervasive and complex nature of the problem which in my view is as a result of the symbiotic relationship between the two most destructive forces that undermine the rule of law in our Caribbean societies, politicization of crime and police corruption. Together they undoubtedly present a challenge to and task for all of us and as the poet Martin Carter puts it “All are involved, all are consumed.”