Restoring Faith – Police and Civilian Relations

SBSara Bharrat Contributor

 

 

No matter how much any Government tries to address the short-comings of any institution, there will always be flaws, the public will always be upset about something and governments will always be blamed. However, this does not excuse policy-makers from addressing existing problems but creates more pressure for them to do so.

Right now, my younger brother is shackled by the ankle to our cousin at the Grove Police Station (East Bank Demerara). His crime? Honesty, lack of education as it relates to the law and his rights and an attempt to defend his relatives from a petty thief who had been running behind one relative with a knife and trying to stab another.

Now this situation is a very complex one and it encompasses many of the factors that contribute to the public’s lack of faith in Police. I believe that by using it as a case study we can address some of the issues that are responsible for the public’s lack of faith in the police.

Context

Lot 7 Side-line Dam, Craig village is a property owned by my grandmother. Two of my uncles live on the land and one grows a wide variety of cash crops. My younger brother operates a small shop on the property and my cousin lives there.

This morning the man who has allegedly been stealing from the farm for most of 2015 was caught on the property by one of my uncles and some neighbours. He reportedly attempted to attack them with a knife and one of the group threw a cutlass at him as he was trying to stab another. The man who is alleged to have thrown the cutlass and causing the injury has since disappeared.

On hearing the commotion, my brother ran out from his shop and my cousin from his house. They rushed over to the scene to see what was happening. My brother and cousin stood a short distance off until the alleged thief started running my cousin with a knife to the front of the yard.

As the thief was rushing through the gate, my brother threw a dry coconut behind him. He missed. He later told this to the police and they locked him up. I know all of this because until a few minutes ago they allowed him to keep his phone. He says that the police will not let them go until the person that did the chopping is brought to the station.

My uncle left for the backdam for work after the incident and the other men who were present refuse to go give statements. As a result, two young men, with no criminal records, will be put through an ordeal which will further deteriorate their faith in the police and which will rob them of at least three days of their lives.

The Things We Did Wrong

  1. My aunt and uncle, the owners of the property being stolen, failed to report the matter to the police. They have done so in the past for many years and the police have never even shown up in many instances. They’ve given up on reporting such issues and are not educated enough to grasp just how big of an error this is. I am not sure that ignorance excuses their failure to act.
  2. My brother should not have thrown a coconut behind a fleeing thief with a knife in his hand.
  3. When I showed up at the station, I became emotional when I saw the boys shackled like common criminals. I fired questions at the police in an aggressive manner. Constable Murray asked me what I did for a living based on how I spoke I am guessing. Police are always surprised when a civilian displays knowledge of laws and rights. I answered him. The female rank, whose name I did not get, started ‘busing me about how I thought I could come in there and throw my position at them. All I did was say I’m a writer and activist. I don’t hide these things because of some experiences I’ve had during my days in the media. I did not say it to intimidate and I do not understand how me being a writer is dangerous to them. I do not use my pen to oppress, threaten or shame.

The Things the Police did Wrong

  1. They did not explain to my aunt how she had erred by failing to report the matter nor did they advise her to make a report nor did they take a report from her when I advised her to make one. When I left the station, the alleged thief was sitting there on the same bench I’d been sitting on, high on something and talking to himself. He was saying “dem skunt ain’t do me nothing. I don’t kay. They coolie skunt gotta stay in there.”
  2. While I am trying my best to understand that it is perhaps reasonable for them to keep my brother in custody for pelting a fleeing, knife-wielding thief with a coconut, I do not understand why they are keeping my cousin. He did nothing, not even pelt a coconut. He was a victim.
  3. Constable Murray, Constable Sumner and their female colleague could not understand my emotional response. They said a series of unprofessional things.

My Family’s Experience With the Police

Over the years, my family’s various shops have been robbed. The most recent case was about two years ago. Gun toting bandits attempted to rob my brother. The police showed up and they told us straight that they wouldn’t be able to do anything or find anyone.

Before that, the shop at my former address in Craig was robbed several times. One time, the bandits shot at my uncle and a bullet grazed his head. The police came, dusted for finger prints, took statements and nothing was ever done.

A few years back I went to them to tell them that bandits had moved into the area and we were afraid of being attacked. I told them where the men of questionable character were known to be staying and where they usually limed in the night.

They told me to my face that they could do nothing for me. It was suggested that I be vigilant and if an attempt was made to attack us then I should call them immediately.

Does this begin to explain why it was so hard for my aunt to report the petty thief or the incident from this morning?

Part two of this article will identify the issues and suggest a solution. For now I have to run off to the Diamond Station where my brother and cousin were just moved.

Happy New Year and peace be with you.

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