Officers ignorant of the Constitution, use flimsy excuses to carry out searches, arrests – Complaints Authority

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The Police Complaints Authority in its latest report has once again cautioned police ranks against persistent violations to the Constitution, including the arrest and detention of members of the public for non-arrestable offences, and based on unlawful stop and search.

The report which addressed complaints against police ranks for the year 2019 was presented to the National Assembly last week and soon after made public.

Investigations carried out during that year have found that the majority of ranks interviewed were ignorant of the Constitutional provisions regarding arrests and stop and search, the report noted.

According to the author, Justice (ret’d) William Ramlal, in his capacity as Chairman of the Police Complaints Authority, it was found that a substantial number of members of the Force under investigation openly violate the constitution in the performance of their duties.

He made it clear that the arrest and detention of members of the public for non-arrestable offences and based on unlawful stop and search were both a violation of the constitution.

Justice Ramlal said the violations were not limited to this only but it seemed most prevalent.

On the issue of arrests, he said should ranks continue along this line they will cost the state to be liable to pay damages and compensation for false imprisonment.

In general terms, a non-arrestable offence is one in which the law does not impose a custodial sentence.

He said too that even when carrying out stop and search exercises and campaigns, it was found that ranks continue to detain persons without reasonable suspicion.

Article 139 (1) of the Constitution makes it clear the circumstances under which a person can be lawfully arrested, stopped, searched or detained.

Ramlal has recommended that the Guyana Police Force put systems in place for all ranks to be brought up to date with these Constitutional provisions.

The report also addressed the unlawful invasion of a citizen’s home which oftentimes included search, arrest and detention.

Ramlall said since his appointment in September 2018, all of the complaints investigated in relation to search, arrest and detention of persons while looking for narcotics yielded no finds and were done on the flimsy excuse that the police have information.

“None of this ‘information’ is based on any “reasonable suspicion” the report noted.

Moreover, it added that ranks were, at an alarming rate compromising the integrity of the force by falsely utilising the offences of resisting arrest, disorderly behaviour and assaulting a peace officer to justify an unlawful and unnecessary arrest.

With several other infractions cited, the Authority believes members of the force must be taught the Fundamental Rights of the citizens.

The Authority also reminded that remedies to tort police excess were also available.

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