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Rohee orders “change of guard” at No.51 police station in wake of protest

SUNDAY NIGHT: Residents at Number 48 Village Corentyne block road to protest upsurge in crime and possible police involvement

Home Affairs Minister, Clement Rohee has asked that ranks at the Number 51 Village Police Station be transferred, following allegations by residents that cops have been involved in banditry and in other instances tardy in responding to reports.

“I spoke to the Commissioner drawing to him my concerns on the matter and I made one recommendation to him and that recommendation was that I wanted a total change of guard at the Number 51 Police Station,” Rohee told a news conference.

He said he was awaiting a report from Police Commissioner, Leroy Brumell that should include whether “action was taken swiftly” on his ministerial general order and direction. Rohee said he has also spoken with Berbice Divisional Commander, Assistant Commissioner Brian Joseph about the allegations being made by residents.

The Minister said he made known his desire Sunday night after residents at Number 48 Village blocked the Corentyne Public Road to protest the unsatisfactory response by a mobile patrol moments after Lalman’s Grocery  was robbed by four men who opened fire with shotguns.

Residents again accused police of colluding with bandits or participating in a spate of robberies in the Corentyne area. A senior police officer, reacting to one accusation, said a policeman had used his personal vehicle to respond to a report of a robbery last week. However, villagers interpreted their arrival in a civilian vehicle as having been involved in the attack.

The Corentyne area is largely a major support-base for the governing Peoples Progressive Party (PPP) which lost its parliamentary majority at the November 2011 general election.

He acknowledged that public confidence in the police was low and so people were resorting to forming vigilante groups. Rohee, instead, urged members of the public to form or participate in Community Policing Groups. “People will react in this way so long as they lose and continue to lose public confidence in the police. It’s a battle that they have to win back. That’s a police battle,” he said.

Rohee urged the police to cease taking a “know-it-all” stance and “walk-the-villages” rather than “stand aloof from the population”.