In recent years, the Guyana Police Force (GPF) has shown some improvement in its performance: making many more arrests, responding more swiftly to crime scenes, solving more crimes, and capturing dangerous criminals, etc. And for this it should be given our fullest support, taking into consideration that being a Police rank in today’s world is an extremely risky and taxing job.
However, the public perception of Police incorruptibility, never high at any time, has reached a new low, plunging to subterranean levels after several top-ranking officials, both present and former, are before the court for engaging in corrupt practices.
One of the troubling issues that continue to beset the GPF is corruption, particularly in the Traffic Department. Many ranks in this department have, over the years, been accused of turning a blind eye to so many traffic offences, once errant drivers and lawbreakers pay up. And this appears to be one of the major reasons why road users continue to flout the law, with the resultant effect of more accidents on our roads, often times with tragic consequences.
A large number of drivers guilty of causing fatal and other serious accidents walk away from the courts free, in some instances because Police ranks do not show up to give evidence, perhaps due to being paid off.
Sometimes, if they do show up, they provide distorted evidence, which would free the defendants, or case files are reported to have been misplaced, for which no one seems to have accountability, so no one is penalised for these infractions in the justice system.
This situation simply cannot be allowed to continue, because corruption eats away at the moral fabric of society, thereby undermining governance and national socio-economic advancement.
“Corruption undermines everything the law enforcement and community work towards. It impoverishes whole communities, and threatens safety and security of the many for the benefit of a very few,” observed former INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K Noble.
However, corrupt Policemen are not the only perpetrators to be blamed. Those who pay bribes are equally guilty of the crime of corruption, and as long as there are those who are willing to pay bribes, there will be those who are willing to accept them.
In Guyana’s case, corruption with the GPF did not begin overnight, but, on the contrary, began during the post-independence period when the political situation declined for the worst and democracy was thrown overboard through rigged elections and the infamous doctrine of the paramountcy of the party.
During that period, Policemen were forced to sell the then ruling party’s newspaper, the New Nation, and hire car drivers and other citizens were coerced into buying it. And, of course, they never received change from their forced purchase. In fact, it is alleged that the then Prime Minister was himself involved in this practice.
However, dealing with corruption within the GPF is not an easy task, because of the complexity of human nature, but that should not be an excuse not to do anything about it, because our future prosperity is heavily dependent upon our ability to successfully confront it.
According to INTERPOL, “Corruption is a multifaceted phenomenon supported by differing historical and socio-economic conditions in each country. It exists at all levels of society. Although in the past it could have been considered a largely domestic issue, corruption now often transcends national boundaries. Its consequences are global; its hidden costs immense.
“Nevertheless, corruption remains rampant in many countries, continuing to siphon off valuable resources and economic gains.”
Perhaps a first step in our fight against corruption, not only within the GPF, but in the entire society, would be to revive the ‘Office of the Ombudsman’, and provide it with ample resources needed in order for it to function effectively and efficiently.