Service and protection for all
Every citizen, in every village, in every region, is entitled to the protections and guarantees accorded under the laws of Guyana. The Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, our highest law, [at Article 149 D (1)] provides that: “…The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or equal protection and benefit of the law.”
The Constitution safeguards and guarantees citizens’ human rights. Our country is a signatory to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides [at Article 3] that, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.”
The Guyana Police Force, under the Police Act, is charged with protecting citizen’s right to life, liberty and security of person. The Act [at Section 3(2)] mandates that:
The Force shall be employed for the prevention and detection of crime, the preservation of law and order, the preservation of the peace, the repression of internal disturbance, the protection of property, the apprehension of offenders and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which it is directly charged…
The Guyana Police Force is empowered to protect all citizens regardless of class, race or place of residence. It is required to enforce the law in an even-handed manner. It is mandated to serve and protect everyone and everywhere within the country.
The country’s geographic, demographic and economic factors place a heavy burden, historically, on Force’s organizational, operational and administrative capabilities. The Force is overcoming these challenges.
Guyana, although small compared to the other states of South America, is the largest country in the Caribbean Community. It has a 260 km coastline and 3,000 km land borders. Its variegated landscape includes grasslands, highlands, islands, wetlands, the flat coastland, hinterland rainforests, rivers, lakes and waterfalls. All of these present challenges for law enforcement officers.
Access to nearly seventy-five percent of our country, which is covered with forests is difficult for the police, a situation which is compounded by inadequate infrastructure such as aerodromes, bridges, highways and stellings.
The vast areas, long distances and limited communications and transportation assets available to the Police Force restrict its ability to enforce the law everywhere, effectively. Many communities are accessible only by air; others can be reached only by river; others are best accessed on horseback, by all-terrain-vehicle or bicycle or on foot.
The distribution of the country’s population also presents challenges to effective policing. More than 80 percent of the country’s population resides on the coastland, with the remaining 20 percent scattered in numerous small communities, which are often separated by great distances and often too small to justify a permanent police presence.
Population densities vary across the country. They range from 1.3 persons per km2 in Barima-Waini to 140.4 persons per km2 in Demerara-Mahaica and to fewer than 0.5 persons per km2 in the Cuyuni-Mazaruni, Potaro-Siparuni and the Upper Takutu-Upper Essequibo Regions.
The Force is required to protect the country and its economy. Farmers want to protect their crops from praedial larceny; ranchers want to bring an end to cattle rustling; fisher folk want protection from piracy; miners want to be safe from attacks on mining camps by bandits, particularly from ‘sindicatos’ operating along the country’s frontiers; loggers want safety within their concessions and businessmen want an end to burglary.
Security threats are becoming complex and more formidable. Transnational threats such as contraband-smuggling, gun-running, human trafficking and narcotics-trafficking present a serious threat to national security. Inter-personal violence has been the cause of many crimes and has inflicted a huge human cost on our population.
Guyana must be secured against local and transnational crime and our families and school children must be secured from interpersonal violence. Our environment must be protected to ensure that our natural resources are not plundered. Communities must become free from criminal violence. Children must be allowed to grow up in safe and secure homes, schools and neighbourhoods.
An efficient, well-equipped, well-trained and professional Guyana Police Force is needed to confront these threats to human safety and public order.
Police reform is vital to the efficiency and efficacy of law enforcement. The Force has been the subject of numerous reviews over the past twenty years and has been implementing reforms over the past five years more assiduously. These are aimed at reorganizing, re-equipping and re-professionalising the Force to ensure there is greater public trust in its work and personnel and to respond more effectively to criminal threats.
Greater emphasis will be placed on planning and implementation. A Strategic Planning Unit was established to coordinate change activities within the Force, in 2017.
Security sector reform is a high priority of government’s public security policy. It involves measures to promote greater probity in the work of the police and to ensure greater integrity among its members. It is strengthening professional competence, social responsibility and administrative oversight and improving the officers’ performance so as to allow it to become a more capable law-enforcement agency. The Force has been implementing institutional restructuring.
The Police high command is being strengthened. The Commissioner of Police has appointed a full complement of Deputy Commissioners. The Commissioner is assigned responsibility for the superintendence of the entire Force while his four Deputies will support him. They have been assigned responsibilities for each of the main areas of responsibility ― Administration, Operations, Law-enforcement and Counter-intelligence.
These appointments streamline the Force’s management. They were geared to ensure that the Force was managed more efficiently, to motivate officers and to rebuild public trust in the Force’s work.
Police administration has been decentralized. Divisional boundaries have now been aligned with regional administrative boundaries. The Force’s structure and staffing levels across all Divisions were reviewed and in 2019, they were implemented to address the expansion from 7 to 12 Police Divisions which are aligned identically to those of the Regional Administrative boundaries.
The Force’s infrastructure is being improved to create an environment conducive to effective law-enforcement. Fifteen new police stations and outposts, including new stations at Linden and Aurora, were constructed over the past five years. Eighteen stations were rehabilitated during that period.
Divisional-based Management Information Units were established and preparations have been made for the introduction of a National Intelligence Model across all divisions. Forty-six police stations are now linked to the Integrated Crime Information System. The database of this system is being used to analyse crime-related information.
The Forensic and Science Laboratory was upgraded to support the Force’s forensic investigations. It is now capable of conducting Deoxyribonucleic Acid (DNA) testing, at last.
The Force’s administration is becoming more automated. The Citizen Security Strengthening Programme has supported the implementation of an Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) to enhance the Force’s human resource, finance and procurement management.
Police stations, outposts and headquarters will be expected to fully transition to renewable energy sources by the end of the ‘Decade of Development’ in 2029. The Force will be expected to be self-sufficient in energy by the end of that year.
The Force is being recapitalized, including with support from friendly states. The Force’s transportation fleet since 2015 has been increased with the addition of 338 new vehicles – motor cars, motor buses, motor cycles, motor pick-ups, mini-buses and all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and other specialised utility vehicles. Thirty-four boats, engines and other riverine craft were added to the Marine Branch over the past five years to enhance its marine capability.
The use of body cameras by ranks, piloted in Division 4 ‘A’, is now being extended to other Divisions. The nine eleven (911) system was revamped to improve timely responsiveness to reports of crime.
Your Government has provided greater resources to help the Force’s crime-fighting capabilities. Expenditure (current and capital) increased by 85 per cent from G$7.5B in 2014 to G$13.9 B in 2019. The Government has provided for G$56.5B of the Force’s expenditure over the past five years.
The Force’s personnel strength of about 4,600 is inadequate and will be augmented during the ‘Decade of Development’. Our country’s 215,00km² makes it larger in extent than England and Scotland combined and with 3,000 km of borders and 460 km of sea coast, the Force is challenged to enforce the law effectively everywhere. The Force has begun to overcome these constraints.
The Force’s personnel have increased by 37.6 percent from 3,610 in 2014 to 4, 956 at as December 2019. It is now being supported by a 1,990 member Constabulary.
Policemen and policewomen are now enjoying improved wages and salaries. The average pay of a constable has increased from G$55,889 in 2014 to G$88,237 in 2019.
The Force must be brought to strength. Trained police officers must be deployed away from non-core functions such as immigration, certification of vehicular fitness and issuance of gun licenses. These non-core functions must be outsourced so as ensure that more trained ranks are deployed to crime-fighting duties.
The Force must groom a more versatile officer corp. The police officer of the future must be equipped with a wide range of skills and c ompetencies. He or she must be able to operate in different environments and be capable of working and living on the coastland or in the hinterland.
Vigorous efforts are being made to improve relations between the Force and communities. The Citizen Security Strengthening Programme funded the establishment of twenty Community Action Councils to assist with crime-fighting, including supporting the training of community members to better address domestic violence and to promote good parenting practices and neighbourhood watch schemes. Team Policing was introduced, in 2017, to improve police- community relations.
The Police Service Commission is an independent constitutional body. The Constitution, at Article 212 (1), vests the Commission with:
“…power to make appointments to any offices in the Police Force of or above the rank of Inspector, the power to exercise disciplinary control over persons holding or acting in such offices and the power to remove such from office…”
The reconstitution of the Commission, in August 2018, has disabused officers of fears about the personalisation or politicization of appointments. It engenders greater confidence that appointments will be based on merit and that dismissals and disciplinary action will be just. These expectations will boost personnel morale.
The Police Complaints Authority was re-appointed on 12th September 2018. The ‘Authority’ is vested with powers to receive
“…complaints of specified cases of misconduct by members of the Police Force” and “supervise investigation of certain serious crimes alleged to have been committed by members of the Police Force.”
The investment made in reorganizing, restructuring and recapitalizing the Force has paid dividends. There is renewed confidence Policing. Fewer complaints about extra-judicial actions have been registered. The Force is improving as it enters a new decade of the millennium.
January is the first month of the ‘Decade of Development: 2020-2029.’ The reforms which will be implemented during this ‘Decade’ will allow a modern and professional Police Force to emerge. Reforms to be implemented over the next ten years will create a stronger, more mobile, more versatile, more professional Police Force.
The Force is a national, not coastal, organisation. It must reach and it must extend its reach to the most thinly populated and geographically challenging terrain in the country. Its reach should extend to the most remote corners of the country. Its seventy-four police stations, twenty-four outposts and six checkpoints are inadequate for our territory, population and incidence of transnational crime. There have to be changes so no part of the country remains unmanned and no crime remains undetected.
- The Aviation Unit will be re-established during the ‘Decade’ to allow the Force to improve its coastal and border surveillance and to respond rapidly to threats in any part of the country whether by day or night.
- The Tactical Services Unit will have expanded responsibilities. It will be expected to protect the country’s border ‘frontline’ communities in light of the migrations from regional and neighbouring countries. There are now more Venezuelan migrants in the country than there are Police officers in the Force. They continue to face criminal threats, particularly from contraband, human, gun and narcotics trafficking mainly in the hinterland. The Internal Security Squad will continue to be based at Eve Leary and will be trained to perform its current functions, mainly on the Coastland. So there will be two Squads, a Hinterland Squad and the Coastland Squad.
- The Mounted Branch will be increased to provide greater security for the hinterland communities and the back dams where some unpleasant things occur in mining and coastland communities. Many of these communities are more effectively policed by horseback.
- The Marine Branch will be strengthened to provide every division with the manpower and means to respond to crimes and protect riverine communities. It will also be required to collaborate with the Guyana Defence Force’s Coast Guard and the Maritime Administration Department (MARAD) of the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, now that there is increased activity from the petroleum exploration companies and there is greater opportunity for crime.
- The Communications Branch will link every police station through a secure communications network. This interconnectivity will allow for inter-divisional cooperation in intercepting and combatting criminal activities.
Annual Officers’ Conference
Officers are paid to lead. They are tasked with helping to shape the Force’s future over the next ten years in accordance with Government’s public security policy of ensuring that every citizen is safe from anti-social behavior, from crime, from disorder and lawlessness on our roads.
Police Officers’ Conferences are about leadership. They are expected to be forward-looking and not retrospective. Officers must commit to leading the Force into a new era of modernization and greater professionalization and to accelerating the reforms taking place. Officers, ultimately, are the guarantors of human safety and public security all the time, to everyone, everywhere in Guyana.
I thank you.