In recent years, opposition groups, active media, rights organizations and ordinary Guyanese have watched in awe as the police administration grapples with a growing brigade of rogue cops engaged in open torture of criminal suspects, widespread demand for bribes and a string of other atrocities that have reached to such an alarming stage that the umbrella police association says it now feels compelled to act.
In recent days, the association that represents about 2,500 junior officers and ordinary ranks, says it has become so ashamed of the actions of dirty officers in the force that it has sent representatives on missions to visit police stations to remind active officers and supervising ranks that the situation is getting out of hand and is bringing the entire system into disrepute.
Quiet and if not dormant for years, the association surfaced with a highly unusual statement this week just days after two officers were criminally charged with grievously harming a 15-year-old high school student by shooting him in the mouth because they believed he was withholding vital information about an armed robbery involving the relative of one of the policemen. One of the policemen was a cadet officer on probation.
Both have been remanded to prison and could face up to 15 years in jail if convicted. The victim is being treated in hospital. He has told reporters that the officer played a game of Russian Roulette with him and appeared surprised when the revolver’s spinning chamber lined up and ejected a bullet that nearly killed him. The magistrate remanded him to jail because of a previous attempt to bribe the victim, expressing fears that the same will occur if out on bail.
The statement was also issued by the body about two weeks after a policeman at a coastal station was crazy enough to pour a flammable liquid onto the hands of suspect in station detention and set them alight and about six months after another allegedly sodomized another suspect with a condom-covered baton at a station near the main airport. The officer involved in this case has also been charged but is out on bail. The 19-year-old remains hospitalized while police complete their investigations into the matter.
The latest case of a suspect being set alight has come about five years after a group of policemen on the west coast poured a similar liquid on the genitals of a 15-year old and set them alight, scarring him for life. The state paid him a mere $30,000 in compensation.
Apart from the association, opposition legislators and the Guyana Human Rights Association and Justice Cecil Kennard who heads the police complaints have all spoken out against the growing number of police torture and brutality cases urging immediate action by the top brass.
The body said that rogue cops engaged in “venalities, inappropriate conduct and other transgressions, which tend to stigmatize the organization and bring into disrepute the credibility of the many hard working policemen and women. Supervisors must take swift, decisive and appropriate action against defaulting ranks,” the association said.
Similar acts of brutality that prisoners and criminal suspects say they felt were ignored by the state led to the shooting deaths of 27 law enforcement officers between 2002-04. Most were killed by inmates on inordinately long periods of remand without trial who broke out and formed a murderous gang that killed a prison guard, a narco police officer, a soldier and 24 policemen. Critics fear a repeat of this if the police administration does not act quickly.