Guyana PM Says Police Integrity Critical To Safety And Security

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Guyana Chronicle:–  COVERING up corruption and shielding crooked officers are not the kind of “protection” in which the Guyana Police Force should be involved, said Prime Minister Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, who is executing the duties of President.

He was at the time delivering the keynote address to an inaugural Integrity Policing Symposium hosted on Saturday at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre at Liliendaal

The Prime Minister (PM) told senior officers gathered in the dome that they are all leaders placed in positions to deliver “public good,” which must not be abused.

“If you’re exercising power, issues of responsibility and integrity [must] be engrained [sic] in your psyche,” PM Phillips noted.

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Premised on honesty and strong moral values, the Prime Minister said that integrity within the Guyana Police Force (GPF) is critical to the nation’s safety and security.

He acknowledged, however, that at some point in their careers almost every public official is faced with proposals that seek to test their moral compasses.

“Your integrity will determine how you handle issues,” PM Phillips asserted. He went further to assure the officers that upholding one’s integrity “has its rewards.”

For integrity to be the order of the day, PM Phillips placed the onus on the top-tier policemen and women whom, he said, are required to cultivate a “no nonsense command climate” based on noble principles.

“Keep your word, be true to your values and people will follow you,” PM Phillips posited. He added, “Your success as a commander adds up to the successes of the force in the eyes of the Guyanese society.” Such wins, the PM indicated, are much needed in order for persons to change their perceptions of the police force.

As it is, the GPF has been ranked by international surveys as being one of the least trusted bodies in the country.

“Without integrity, your organisation will suffer,” PM Phillips said, as he encouraged the police officers to spare no effort in weeding out the unethical members among them. “Don’t cover up, investigate and expose corruption,” the PM charged.

He reminded that a change in the negative perception of the police force is especially critical as the country remains on the cusp of massive transformation. “All eyes are on Guyana…Guyana is the land of opportunities right now,” PM Phillips recognised.

PUT IT IN WRITING

In effecting the needed change, the PM stressed the importance for lower and middle-tier officers to understand and be constantly reminded of their roles and what is required of them. To this end, he instructed that a booklet outlining key police principles be printed and distributed to officers all across the country.

“Put it in writing. Every member must have a booklet with values and standards; [that] is very important…so they can read, study and stay informed,” PM Phillips noted.

SEE ME AS A COLLEAGUE

Even as he outlined the government’s expectations of the GPF, Phillips assured the officers that even before he became Prime Minister he had served for 36 years as a member of the Guyana Defence Force.

“I worked closely with [the] GPF; see me as a colleague who served with you and understand the challenges in the defence and security sector,” PM Phillips encouraged.

To this end, he assured the officers that under the People’s Progressive Party/Civic government, deliberate and strategic efforts would be made to improve the lives of servicemen and women.

“Government is committed to doing everything within the confines of the budget to improve the GPF,” the PM assured.

Particularly, he said that the administration will address welfare issues, conditions of work, the need for scholarships, and all other challenges facing not only the GPF, but the fire, prison and defence services as well.

Meanwhile, Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn said that the forum serves as a much-needed platform for introspection, which is important as the force charts a more prosperous course. “When we speak about integrity in policing, it also applies to other services and agencies,” Benn noted.

He said that going forward, the GPF needs to pinpoint specific indicators, which can be used to measure improvements, and ascertain areas of weaknesses.

UNDESIRABLE QUALITIES

Following up on remarks made by Police Commissioner (ag) Nigel Hoppie, Minister Benn said that he no longer wants to see the police being involved in cases of harassment against members of the public, or incidents such as beatings and suicides occurring at police stations.

In relation to issues of domestic violence and child abuse, Minister Benn said that he wants the police force to start engaging communities within their jurisdiction to devise preventative measures and take a proactive stance.

In his presentation, Top Cop Hoppie went as far as to highlight some of the common instances when some ranks “do not exhibit the desired qualities” of their positions. These, according to Hoppie, include use of abusive language to members of the public, unlawful withholding of documents and embezzling of public funds, among others.

There have also been reports of police officers making light of reports relating to domestic abuse and gender-based violence. More specifically, Commissioner Hoppie said that there have been instances when instead of promptly taking reports, ranks encourage the abused and the abusers to reconcile. Added to that, the top cop expressed concern in relation to reports of police officers mocking male victims of abuse.

With regard to altercations with citizens, Commissioner Hoppie reminded that even if officers are dealing with hostile persons, it remains their responsibility to respond in a respectful and professional manner.

“If people think [that the] police are unethical, they are less likely to cooperate,” the Top Cop posited.

Nonetheless, in most instances, Hoppie said that disciplinary action is taken against the errant officers. In some cases, such action came in the form of criminal charges being brought against members of the force who have been found to be in breach of policies.

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Editorial Staff
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