Police and public trust

201

The Guyana Police Force (GPF) recently issued a stern warning that it intends to get tough with ranks who insist on breaking the law governing tinted vehicles. It was revealed that the Traffic Department has begun a drive, removing the tint from vehicles belonging to Police Officers and those used in patrols. So far, the Department was able to remove over 60 tints from vehicles belonging to Police ranks, while 12 were removed from vehicles being used for traffic patrols.
Even though there is a tint law, for quite some time now, ranks were allowed a free pass with their heavily tinted vehicles, giving the impression to the general public that there is one law for Police Officers and another for the public.
Now that the Traffic Chief has issued a strong warning to errant ranks, it is hoped that efforts currently being made to address the issue are sustained to ensure full compliance with the law. The law should apply to everyone, irrespective of their status, except in cases when the chief licensing authority grants an exemption, and in a few other special cases. As it currently stands, only certain vehicles are permitted to have tint without the expressed permission of the Public Security Minister; these include diplomatic vehicles and those belonging to senior Government and high-ranking military officials.
This recent move by the GPF is indeed a step in the right direction as it would send a strong signal to Police Officers that they would not be able to get a free ride anymore. Some Police Officers feel that they are not obligated to abide by the laws of the country like every other civilian. In some cases, they do not even observe the basic traffic rules; and they do so with certainty that they would not be made to face the necessary charges.
The level of lawlessness has reached enormous proportions, and many times, even though citizens observe the unprofessional and illegal conduct of ranks, they feel it is a waste of time to lodge the necessary complaints as nothing would come out it. Many letter writers have complained in the past, that they would often make certain reports to the relevant authorities, but in most cases very little action is taken against the officers responsible; in some cases, they are simply ‘transferred’.
The Police must lead by example. If they want to win the public’s trust they must be seen as having integrity and decency. They must engage in serious introspection and monitor themselves to ensure they too are held to higher standards. Police Officers cannot be seen as breaking the same laws they expect the public to abide by. As stated by the Traffic Chief: “The public must not see us doing the same wrong things that we are punishing them for.”
With public confidence in the GPF being at best tenuous, it would be in the Force’s own interest to employ every effort to eradicate corruption and strive to rebuild trust in the organisation. It is well accepted that the success of any organisation depends on the integrity of its officials.
While we do not intend to paint the entire Police Force with the same brush, as there are many professional and honest officers within the Force, we are convinced that unless what is perceived as the endemic corruption in the organisation, and the traffic section in particular, is addressed in a holistic manner, we will be preaching about the same issues many years from now.
That said, we are pleased that the Traffic Chief has spoken out strongly against this lawlessness and is taking the necessary steps to address the situation.