Is there a barrel of bad fruits in the police force?
It is no secret to the world at large that corruption in its broadest and most inclusive sense has hung like the proverbial sword of Damocles over the head of the Guyana Police Force. However, while I wholeheartedly laud the recent efforts of Acting Police Commissioner David Ramnarine in producing visible results regarding combating corruption in the Police Force namely, the dismissal of thirty members of the ranks, my optimism became somewhat short lived as negativity began to creep in insidiously.
Backtracking to just little over a year ago, a stern warning was issued to the same Police Force by the Vice President and Minister of Public Security, KhemrajRamjattan, notifying them of zero tolerance for harassment in any form, bullyism or torture, any of which will result in dismissal from the force, followed by criminal prosecution wherever necessary. Plainly put there would be no place for rogue cops.
Did his speech fall on deaf ears? Or did he utter the warning in a strange tongue, having experienced a day of Pentecost type phenomena?
A factor which has not been addressed and which must not be lightly dismissed or at worst overlooked is that the behaviour of these rogue cops, attacks the very heart of the selection and hiring process of the Police Force. Certainly the dismissal of thirty members of the ranks speaks volumes in itself.
Who was responsible for the selection and ultimate hiring process? Pre-employment screening usually identifies problem officers. Perhaps in the case of some of the dismissed officers, signs may have been present but the screening officers may have either overlooked them or was not trained in their detection and interpretation.
If the government is firmly dedicated to stamping out corruption and if recruit training is to have a significant impact on corruption, then all the dimensions of the problem, as well as specific examples of corruption known to exist or have existed in departments must be fully and realistically explored.
Some consideration may need to be given to raising the age of entry into the Police Force, as the present age may not be adequate for the evaluation of adult work and behaviour records.
There should now be a new anti-corruption strategy where heavy emphasis is placed on ethics and values in every aspect of police education and training, from recruitment through to management training.
Although previously met with controversy, the use of polygraph testing as used by some law enforcement agencies in the U.S.A may be effective in the initial screening of candidates.
While the wheels of change are turning it is imperative that the Commissioner keeps in mind that this present wave of reform needs to go beyond the immediately identified problems and look at the organization itself. We cannot sit back and look at this as a few rotten apples in an otherwise healthy barrel. For all we know we may already have an orchard of bad apples.
Rogue cops are not natural born crooks or criminals, nor are they morally evil men, constitutionally different from their truthful colleagues. In other words corrupt police men are made not born, therefore not only the apples should be examined but also the barrel—the entire Force not just the police in it.
Another enigmatic aspect is that throughout the diaspora police are socialized into not cooperating with investigations of their colleagues. In this connection the rule being referred to is the code of silence, and a policeman’s loyalty to the blue curtain of secrecy puts him somewhat within the corruption system, whether or not he participates in corrupt activities.
We have all been privy to hearings where the strength of the code of silence was blatantly evident. Although not discussed or alluded to but the perceived inequity between income and responsibilities may provide an invitational edge for corruption.
In most organizations, it is policies that are changed first and then practices change in line with the new policies. The wind of change has started blowing and hopefully will continue to blow in the right direction, and now it is merely a matter of ensuring that it blows unceasingly on preventive and punitive control policies.
Malpractice and corruption are deterred through an increased emphasis on detection and punishment of wrongdoing, and policies that attempt to reform the Force in ways that would serve to prevent the commission of corrupt practices.
On a final note; the participation of the public is also paramount to success in stamping out corruption, as the Law Enforcement Code of Honour clearly stipulates a policeman’s duty and responsibility to the public, and the expected standards for carrying out same. Now it’s the government’s turn to change the motto that reads thus – If you can’t Protect and Serve, then we will Detect and Unnerve. You had better stop if you want to remain a cop.