…and their baggage
Earlier this week, the Guyana Police Force commemorated its 182nd anniversary. Meaning it was launched in 1839. Does the date ring a bell with you, Dear Reader? You’re correct…go to the head of the class! It was the year after the emancipation of slaves!! And in that factoid lies the seed of Police problems we’re still grappling with: what exactly is the role of the Police?
As the planters grudgingly accepted (after being bribed handsomely by the British Government!) that slavery was gonna be abolished, they were absolutely petrified as to how folks – who’d been brutalised by them for centuries – would react, once their shackles were thrown off. Hence, the formation of the Police Force. Interestingly England – more precisely London – had formed the first Police Force a decade earlier – to protect the burgeoning business nouveau riche. The so-called “Bobbies” were unarmed. Police forces for the counties were authorised by 1835.
It’s critical to know that the Police Force in British Guiana was supposed to be launched in 1838 based on the English “Bobby” model. But it was learnt there’d be an Irish Constabulary the following year and most critically, it would be ARMED to deal with a people who were seen by the authorities as more rebellious. Bells went off!
The Guyana Police Force was delayed for a year so that it could be patterned on the Irish model. In other words, it would be a paramilitary force intended to suppress the populace and protect the big ones in society. And this is the model we’ve maintained to this date, 182 years later!! The other iniquitous policy that’s stubbornly remained in place is the recruitment from particular segments of the population in a direct practice of “divide and rule”.
In the beginning, all of the officers were white and most of the ranks were Bajans since the local freed Africans weren’t trusted with guns in their hands – or to take action on their compatriots. Gradually, as the local freed slaves demonstrated they weren’t into rebelling, they were recruited but not the Indian immigrants. The latter, with all those cutlasses in their hands, were now seen as a threat to the public order! The Police gunned down many of them in the following decades.
Now you might suppose that with independence, the new Guyanese Government might’ve reformed the Police Force – to actually serve and protect the people. But Burnham, who wanted to control us in an even more draconian manner than the departed British, had other ideas. So, now we ended up with not only an authoritarian Police Force, but a CORRUPT authoritarian Police Force!!
We should appreciate that it’ll take root and branch reforms to save the Police Force!!
…and crime fighting
So, we sadly have a situation where our local Police aren’t seen as neutral, either in fighting crime or in that institution that permeates and colours all interactions in Guyana – politics. And, as a matter of fact, fighting crime here can become political – as it has been with the murders of the Henry cousins and Haresh Singh – after Granger and Harmon intervened.
The latest twist to this politicisation-of-crime tragedy appeared after the Police finally arrested four individuals for Haresh’s murder. It included a brother of one of the murdered Henry boys. Their lawyer called a dramatic press conference to claim the lad had an alibi – he’s been looking at the post-mortem streamed by his father. Trouble was, the Police immediately released a video which proved the father had no camera in his hand to do any streaming!! This was the criminal aspect.
But from the political aspect, once the word “alibi” was asserted, doubt has become certainty for the partisans.
That’s how the (Police/crime) cookie crumbles in Guyana!
…and the PSC
We should all know by now, we’ve got a Mexican standoff between the Executive and the Police Service Commission. Is it an irresistible force meeting an immovable object?
Nah!! The President will prevail!