Police Commissioner Leslie James, earlier this week, once again stated that the Guyana Police Force (GPF) has zero tolerance for corruption and warned that ranks found to be involved in corrupt and questionable practices will face the necessary consequences. The Commissioner’s statement comes as the GPF is celebrating its 180th anniversary and some days after Crime Chief Lyndon Alves was sent on administrative leave to facilitate a probe into corruption allegations levelled against him.
Several damning allegations against Alves were detailed in the media, and there were several questions raised by various stakeholders as to the criteria used in the first place to appoint him to that high-level position. Among the allegations against Alves is his alleged use of his influence during his tenure as Commander of B Division to protect rogue cops.
Another allegation levelled against the Crime Chief is his influence being reportedly used to prevent a relative of his, who was involved in an accident, from being charged. In that incident, the young woman allegedly struck four-year-old Mohan Ramkaran close to his Tuschen, East Bank Essequibo (EBE) home. However, after she was arrested, she was later placed on $20,000 station bail and over two years later, she is yet to face the court for her alleged actions.
To clarify: we are not saying that Alves is culpable of any of these wrongdoings, as it is only an independent, impartial and thorough probe that would determine if, and to what extent, he was involved in actions that are against normal practices. However, more diligent efforts should have been employed to ensure that the position was filled by someone who was at least perceived to be qualified, professional, honest, and could enjoy the confidence of his peers as well as the public.
That said, the Alves fiasco is not unique. For many years now we have been hearing about corruption at all levels of the Force; sometimes with the involvement of senior officers themselves. When certain cases are brought to the fore, either by private citizens complaining or by way of media reports, nothing much comes out of these cases even after investigations are carried out. Very often, it comes down to officers simply being transferred or demoted or put to perform ‘administrative duties’.
A few months back, there was the issue of the former Head of the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit, Deputy Superintendent Mootie Dookie, being investigated for alcohol smuggling. He has since been “temporarily transferred” to the Force’s Strategic Unit.
Then there is the issue of some ranks moving around in heavily tinted vehicles in spite of several warnings for them to remove these tints. There is a tint law in place, but for quite some time now, ranks were allowed a free pass with their tinted vehicles, giving the impression to the general public that there is one law for Police Officers and another for the public. 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.
Added to this is that some Police Officers openly break the traffic rules; and they do so with certainty that they would not be made to face the necessary charges. Pictures and videos of ranks using their mobile phones and drinking alcohol while on duty have been making the rounds of Facebook. And 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 of it.
We had stated before that 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 breaking the same laws they expect the public to abide by.
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 is addressed in a holistic manner, efforts being made at Police reform would be in vain. In the meantime, we await the findings of the Alves probe.