More than primary education may soon be needed to join Police Force

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By Isanella Patoir

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In order for a person to join the Guyana Police Force, they are only required to have a primary level education among meeting other criteria but this could soon change as the Commissioner of Police (ag) Nigel Hoppie believes that more stringent standards should be put in place.

The top cop believes that this low-level requirement affects the integrity of the police force and often leads to corrupt practices.

“The present entry requirement is a sound primary education, this should be reviewed to a higher level,” Hoppie said.

He was at the time speaking at the Guyana Police Force ‘Inaugural Integrity in Policing Symposium’ held at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Greater Georgetown on Saturday.

Commissioner of Police (ag) Nigel Hoppie (Photo: DPI/October 30, 2021)

The force is now on a mission to eradicate the unprofessional and unethical conduct of police ranks; the symposium is as one of the many training sessions to this effect.

“A sound primary education in itself is not necessarily the best measure for joining the police force but it might be more a question of a sound secondary education,” Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn said in response to the Police Commissioner’s statement.

According to Benn, there are other barriers that affect the recruitment of new ranks, and these he said, will be reviewed. The Home Affairs Minister said an integrity plan is needed for the police force which will include performance indicators for ranks.

Minister of Home Affairs Robeson Benn (Photo: DPI/October 30, 2021)

UNPROFESSIONAL CONDUCT

Meanwhile, Commissioner Hoppie listed several other instances where police ranks were unprofessional. He stated that there are numerous reports of ranks using excessive force, abusive language and even physically assaulting suspects during arrests. Hoppie charged that even in aggravated situations with citizens “police still ought to be calm and civil in those situations.”

The Police Commissioner also revealed that traffic ranks are being accused of unlawfully withholding documents from drivers and motorists.

As it relates to responding to reports of crime, Commissioner Hoppie said that ranks fail to take the report because it did not occur in their district. In actuality, the ranks are supposed to take the report and transfer it to the districts they occurred in.

Other unprofessional conduct from ranks includes accepting bribes or gifts from citizens for policing services and misconducts in a public office such as fraud and embezzlement.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE

In dealing with domestic and gender-based violence, it was revealed that ranks sometimes urge the abusers and victims to resolve the matter. Additionally, there are concerns about ranks treating reports from male abused victims as a joke and would even laugh when the report is being made.

To this end, Commissioner Hoppie is hopeful that these interventions will enable a more professional police force.

“The Guyana Police Force would have conducted numerous training programmes in policing and take disciplinary action and in some cases, criminal charges have been brought against members of the force who have been found to be in breach of the existing policies relating to the force and the law,” the Police Commissioner stated.

Members of the Guyana Police Force and other officials in prayer at the opening session of the inaugural ‘Integrity in Policing Symposium’ at the ACCC (Photo: DPI/October 30, 2021)

He said the police force is committed to working and building partnerships with communities, improving working relationships within the justice sector and other government institutions and by extension regional and international law enforcement agencies. With the appropriate training, modern equipment, and technologies, Hoppie believes the ranks would be better able to protect and serve.

CHALLENGES TO UPHOLDING INTEGRITY

The limited accommodation for ranks is one of the major challenges affecting the police force. Despite the government’s efforts to rebuild and rehabilitate a number of police stations across the country, Commissioner Hoppie said more space is needed for ranks, especially the ones who are stationed far from their homes.

Additionally, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, training to build skills and competency is being affected as well as the recruitment of new ranks.

Commissioner Hoppie recommends a review and amendment of the police force’s Standard Operating Procedures and Standing Orders in keeping with international best practices and policing.

A section of the gathering at the Guyana Police Force Symposium (Photo: DPI/October 30, 2021)

“The Guyana Police Force is committed to setting and maintaining the highest standards of integrity of the force; it is important to ensure a rank upholds values of the force, strive to do the right thing in all situations, and have the confidence of the public,” the Commissioner said.

GOVERNMENT’S COMMITMENT

Meanwhile, Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips, who is executing the duties of President, told the gathering that the government expects the police force to perform its primary purpose – to maintain law and order in Guyana to the best of its ability.

The Prime Minister reiterated the government’s support to assist the force in becoming a high-performing police force. This, he said, will contribute to the high security of citizens in Guyana.

Improved salaries, scholarships, resources are all issues the government is committed to assisting the force with, he said. On Saturday, it was revealed that merit badges for good police officers and ranks might also be introduced in the future.

“You have the expectations and you have from me the commitment of my government,” the Prime Minister said.

Prime Minister, Brigadier (ret’d) Mark Phillips (Photo: DPI/October 30, 2021)

While maintaining integrity is important, the Prime Minister explained that good leadership is equally important. The Prime Minister said that when junior ranks are found committing offences, they are quickly dismissed from the force, however, when a senior officer commits an offence “we cover up and protect.”

He said this is not the type of service the government is looking for from the police force.

“If you are going to have integrity on a pedestal, it means you will have to lead. We have to expose corruption and uphold integrity,” Prime Minister Phillips stated.

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