Over the past months, there have been several reports in the press and viral social media videos/posts about confrontations between citizens and ranks of the Guyana Police Force.
However, of recent, the situation has escalated to an unprecedented level of disrespect and disregard for law enforcement officers.
Only on Sunday evening, 10 residents of Cumberland, East Canje, Berbice in Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) were involved in an altercation with a Police Constable after he shut down their music following a noise nuisance report. What was even more disturbing is the fact that those who were clearly breaching the national curfew even threatened to beat the rank under the pretext that he, the cop, was a thief in disguise. This type of lawless behaviour is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Another obnoxious attack on Police ranks was made recently by a minibus driver of Sophia, Greater Georgetown, who was pulled over by Police Constable Edwin Connelly. The driver became annoyed with the rank, and launched an attack on him with a cutlass. Reports in the press have stated that the cop, who was on motorcycle patrol on Homestretch Avenue, Georgetown, asked the driver to produce his licence, but the driver drove off and was pursued by the cop, who again intercepted him on Sheriff Street. It was at this point that the driver exited the bus, proceeded to the left passenger side of the vehicle, retrieved a cutlass, and chased after the Constable, who ran away.
That driver, Collis Whyte, has since been sentenced to one year’s imprisonment by Magistrate Leron Daly for his actions. He now has one year in prison to think about his actions.
This incident comes on the heels of 32-year-old businessman Terrence Lynch being charged with four offences on Monday, including assaulting a Traffic Police Officer and resisting arrest in relation to an incident which occurred on April 13. Hopefully, Whyte’s jail time would send a strong message to other minibus drivers, and to all persons in general, who act and behave in such a manner towards the Police.
On the matter of lawlessness towards the Police, we support Attorney General Senior Counsel Anil Nandlall, who acknowledged that while there is a lot of work to be done to repair its image as well as improve the professionalism and discipline of its ranks, the Guyana Police Force is the premier law enforcement agency in Guyana, and such actions against it cannot be condoned.
The Attorney General has since said in reference to the cutlass-toting driver’s attack on the Police: “They may be bad, but it is what we have, and we cannot encourage citizens taking up arms against the law enforcement agencies. This type of conduct must be deprecated, condemned in the strongest possible fashion. When this happens, you’re striking at the very heart of Guyana as a civilised society. When the population is resisting and assaulting the law enforcement agencies, that is a serious thing.”
This newspaper has repeatedly taken a position regarding the minibus code of conduct and the expectations for a much-desired improvement in the service provided. From all appearances, this well-intended initiative has made little or no positive impact on the overall operations of minibus service providers.
Just a few weeks ago to restore order at the minibus park around Stabroek Market area, ranks were seen examining minibuses and taxis that are in violation and breach of their road service licences. This action is welcome and commendable. It has been long overdue, prompting the obvious question: Why was it not done earlier, and sustained?
It is imperative that the Police sustain their crackdown to curb the blatant breach of traffic laws, road service licence, overloading, loud music, and disorderly behaviour by public transportation operators.
Such interventions by Police must not, and should not, be sporadic and just to appease for a particular moment.
While the Police can cite challenges in their human resources for lack of presence to curb traffic law violators, there can be no excuse for turning a blind eye when a violation occurs in their presence, which often times occurs. Of particular note, traffic officers would practically ignore motorcyclists who are without the proper gear.
The Police must be commended for the campaign they have started, but continuous enforcement of traffic laws is what is needed on our roadways, and more so at minibus parks.