Benn says SOPs for SWAT unit in use long before he became Minister
By Kurt Campbell
Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn has confirmed the existence of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) Unit and said that they are to be followed by the ranks, failure of which could see disciplinary action being taken.
Benn’s invited comment to the News Room was made at the weekend, days after former Home Affairs Minister Clement Rohee said that while approval was granted during his tenure for a SWAT SOP, it was troubling to learn now, seven years later and having been deployed on several occasions, that there are no written SOPs in place for the Police SWAT squad.
But Benn disagrees, assuring that SWAT SOPs are there to be followed even as retired Assistant Commissioner of Police Clinton Conway also claimed that no approved written SOPs for the SWAT unit exists.
“I don’t want to get into any controversy but it would be unbelievable that there is no SOP.
“There is a SOP specifically for SWAT… it was in place a long time before I arrived here. Don’t worry, there is a SOP,” the Home Minister said when pressed for details.
The issue of a SWAT SOPs arose after the shooting death of Essequibo businessman Orin Boston on September 15, 2021, by a member of the SWAT unit during an anti-crime operation.
Persons had claimed that the SOPs were not followed and then there were claims that no SOPs existed. The Police Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) and the Police Complaints Authority are currently investigating those claims.
But a request was reportedly made in 2014 by then Commissioner of Police in a 24-page document for ‘approval for the SOP to be named Standing Order No. 109 in accordance with the Police Act.’
Rohee, in a letter published in the Stabroek News on September 28, said the ministry granted approval for the SOP to be named Force Standing Order No. 109 in accordance with the Police Act. The rest was left to the then Commissioner of Police.
Rohee recalled that during his tenure as Minister of Home Affairs he sought and got Cabinet’s approval to set up a SWAT unit within the Guyana Police Force. A contract was signed in October 2013 between the Government of Guyana and the Emergence Group (TEG) based in the USA to establish and train its first Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team.
Rohee said some 27 ranks were interviewed and selected by a joint GPF/TEG Management Team. Following the launch of the team in February 2014, training began in earnest between March and May 2014 with graduations in specialized areas in between.
“In late April 2014 the Ministry wrote to the Commissioner of Police concerning the SOP for the SWAT unit. By June 2014, TEG completed and submitted the first draft of SWAT’s Standard Operating Proce-dures (SOP) to me, the then PS, MOHA and the then COP GPF,” Rohee said in the letter.
The SWAT Team is a specially selected and trained group of men and women that provides a concentration of resources and expertise at a level that could not be achieved as easily or effectively by conventional uniformed officers or fugitive investigators.