Address of His Excellency Brigadier David Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana at the swearing-in ceremony of the Police Complaints Authority

Quis custodiet ipsos custodies? 

The Guyana Police Force is the principal agency of the state concerned with ensuring law and order. The Police Act (at Section 3 (2)) tasks the Force with:

… the prevention and detection of crime, the preservation of law and order, the preservation of the peace, the repression of internal disturbance, the protection of property, the apprehension of offenders and the due enforcement of all laws and regulations with which it is directly charged…

The Police’s Act is reinforced by the Constitution of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana (at Article 197 (A) 4) which states:

The Police Force established under the Police Act shall function in accordance with the law as the law-enforcement agency of the State responding to the daily need to maintain law and order by suppressing crime to ensure citizens are safe in their homes, the streets and other places.

It can be seen therefore that an efficient Police Force is essential to human safety and public security. The Constitution, at Article 137, mandates the establishment of a Police Service Commission, which was done last month on 2018.08.09

The Commission’s independent status can contribute to enhancing public trust in the Force. Its powers of discipline and dismissal, applied fairly, can encourage probity and discourage misconduct.

The existence of a Commission, however, is not enough to guarantee that the Force would be officered by persons who are competent, committed and uncorrupted. A Force, which is contaminated by corruption cannot safeguard the security of our citizens. Service in the Force must be based on the values of commitment, competence and incorruptibility.

The Police Force, if it is to maintain public safety, must ensure that it enjoys public trust. The idea of public trust arises out of the relationship between the police and the public. All politics is about people. It follows that whatever trust the people place in the police must be respected. Bribery is regarded as a notorious crime because it contributes to corruption and, thereby, undermines, public trust. That is the reason when I was asked what qualities I sought in appointing a Commissioner of Police I did not hesitate to say that he must be “unbribable.”

The question asked by the Roman poet, Juvenal, 2,000 years ago – Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?  [Who will watch the watchmen themselves?] suggests that it is impossible to enforce, or expect, ethical conduct if the enforcers themselves are unethical.

The Police Complaints Authority Act (1989) established the Police Complaints Authority as an independent body. The ‘Authority’ is vested with powers to:

  • receive “complaints of specified cases of misconduct by members of the Police Force”; and
  • “supervise investigation of certain serious crimes alleged to have been committed by members of the Police Force.”

The Police Complaints Authority Act, at Section 3(1), provides that the Authority “shall consist of one person to be appointed by the President from among persons who have been, who are or who are qualified to be, a Puisne judge of the High Court.” That is what we have done today.

Today’s appointment of the Police Complaints Authority is compliant with the provisions of our laws.  It is also consistent with the government’s commitment to increasing public trust in the Police Force.

The Authority can help to improve the level of public trust between the police and the public. The Authority is a critical link between the Police and the public. It provides a means through which the public can have its grievances against police malpractice addressed in an impartial manner by an independent person.

The Authority is a public defence against the Force’s abuse of citizens’ rights. The Authority allows citizens to hold the Force’s members accountable for their actions.

The Authority can engender greater public trust in the Force by ensuring that the Force’s actions are in conformity with respect for human rights, including the right to life and liberty – rights, which are guaranteed by the Constitution.

The Authority, to effectively discharge its mandate, will be expected to exhibit the qualities of impartiality, integrity and independence.  In so doing, it can rely on the Executive Branch support in discharging its lawful mandate.

I congratulate Justice William Ramlall on his appointment and I thank him for accepting this high position of authority. I wish the Police Complaints Authority every success in its work. Ω.

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