‘Our job is not to be rough, tough & violent’ – Benn tells 1,000 ranks trained to handle domestic violence
By Sharda Bacchus
Fifty to ninety per cent of victims are not comfortable with reporting incidents of violence perpetrated against them by their partners; to address this, members of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) are being trained to handle these cases in a way that would encourage victims to come forward.
Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, speaking Friday at a graduation ceremony of another 1,000 ranks who were successfully trained under the COPSQUAD 2000 initiative, said a reset is necessary.
“…Our police stations must be a welcoming place…It must not be a frightening place. We don’t want people laying down on the ground in the cells, particularly women. These are issues we have to overcome. Police persons must not curse members of the public; it’s unlawful. We have to reset if we want to become a Police service,” Benn said.
According to Benn, Guyana is among the countries with the highest rates of femicide (killing of women) and this cannot continue.
And to address this, Benn said there is a need to “reset” the manner in which members of the public are treated at Police stations.
According to Benn, Police officers have taken an oath to act and serve as peacemakers in the country and should at all times work towards achieving this in the execution of their duties.
“…We will not have peace if the peacemakers are not able to deal with issues related to peace in a way that is appropriate…We have to have a certain level of empathy to bring them (victims) out of distress and bring them to positions where ultimately they will be put in a better position,” he said.
“Our job is not to be rough and tough and violent,” Benn added.
In August 2021, the Ministry of Human Services and Social Security, in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs, launched the COPSQUAD initiative.
To date, close to 1600 ranks were trained to deal with domestic violence matters.
Commissioner of Police (ag), Clifton Hicken, said the GPF has been utilising this platform to build its capacity and develop partnerships aimed at addressing issues such as domestic violence.
And to enhance the level of service delivered to the public, Hicken said the trained ranks will be decentrailised across the ten regions.
“….You will improve coming out of this training, the service you provide to the public. There should be no more complaints coming to us in relation to attitudes displayed negatively by members of the Police force. You are equipped with the skills and knowledge now and it is only fitting that we have good comments coming from the public based on your delivery,” Hicken urged the ranks.
In her address, Minister of Human Services and Social Security, Dr Vindhya Persaud revealed that from January to March of this year, the Ministry received 3894 calls through the 914 hotline – 129 of which were domestic violence related.
Dr Persaud said she firmly believes that the initiative can bring control to the issue. But in doing so, she said not only is the training of middle management of the Force pivotal when dealing with issues of domestic violence but also the manner in which these cases are dealt with.
“..At your feet lies that great responsibility to all the citizens of Guyana and that is why the COPSQUAD initiative was so carefully constructed to address all of the missing elements that would have made you face the brunt of public outcry when things were not done the way they ought to be done,” she said.
“When a report is made, I urge you to treat it with every seriousness that it deserves….Take this training, utilise it to the best of your ability, and put your best foot forward,” Dr Persaud urged the graduates.
Upon successful graduation, each rank received a certificate and was pinned with a badge which helps the public to identify them and a certificate.