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Police force issues “stop” guidelines for plainclothes, traffic ranks after Sattaur case

Days after the son of the Commissioner General of the Guyana Revenue Authority (GRA) complained bitterly that he was being trailed by someone in a heavily tinted unmarked vehicle who later turned out to be a traffic policewoman, the Guyana Police Force Thursday announced guidelines for stop and search.

The GRA boss’ son, 19-year old Fiyad  Sattaur, Wednesday pleaded guilty to a charge of careless driving and he was fined GYD$25,000. The incident occurred on January 16, 2016.

He was convicted four days after a policewoman in a heavily tinted unmarked vehicle trailed him until he stopped on East Street, North Cummingsburg in the vicinity of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation (GPHC). The occurrence sparked concerns in some quarters, coming less than one month after Guyana Defence Force (GDF) intelligence agents sought to intercept a vehicle on behalf of the Police Force’s Special Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) as part of an investigation into the National Industrial Commercial and Investments Limited (NICIL). It turned out that the GDF intelligence agents were monitoring the wrong house and persons on Cowan Street, Kingston and during a high-speed chase of the occupants of a car, one of the soldiers and his wife died in a collision with a truck on Carifesta Avenue. The GRA’s Commissioner General has been fired with effect March 1, 2016 officials have since visited his home and taken away properties belonging to that tax collection agency.

After Wednesday’s conviction, police issued a statement that “traffic ranks are not authorised to stop motorists for routine checks of documents. They should only do so if an offence is committed in their view or where there is reasonable suspicion.”

The Police Force further reminded the public that “its policy is that police ranks in plain clothes and in unmarked vehicles are not authorised to stop motorists except when they are performing duties on the roadway in front of a Police Station.”

In a previous statement issued on Tuesday, the Guyana Police Force acknowledged that the policewoman was driving a private vehicle. “The Guyana Police Force wishes to clarify that during the morning of Saturday January 16, 2016, a Police Sergeant who is attached to the Traffic Department and was dressed in uniform, was driving a private motor vehicle car along Sandy Babb Street, Kitty, when she observed motor vehicle PRR 4423 overtake a line of other motor vehicles waiting at the traffic lights.

The police rank made a note of the vehicle’s registration number intent on following up with prosecution, however, she caught up with the vehicle at the intersection of Lamaha and Albert Streets, where she drove up alongside and told the driver of the offence committed. He however drove away.

The Police Traffic Sergeant drove behind PRR 4423 and caught up again with the vehicle at Lamaha and East Streets, where she came out and approached the driver whom she learnt to be Fiyad Sattaur of Ogle, ECD.”

According to the police force, the law permits police ranks to stop and search a motor vehicle based on reasonable suspicion or if they witness an offence being committed.

In a statement issued to the media about the incident on January 16, 2016 at about the occurrence, Sattaur said: “Upon stopping on East Street I observed the driver of the vehicle exited the vehicle and then realized the female driver who exited the vehicle was wearing a blue police uniform. She began shouting at me at the top of her voice. My fear and apprehension was somewhat alleviated. I followed the instructions of the person in police uniform to drive to the police station. I did not observe a police name tag and she did not identify herself to me. Deciding that the police station was the safest place to be at this point I complied with these instructions. She did not request to see my documents nor did she examine same at East Street but instead shouted at me to drive to the Eve Leary Police Station.

Had I not slowed down to seek assistance on East Street and did not later observe who it was that was pursuing me in such a dangerous manner in an unmarked and heavily tinted vehicle I would have continued to drive towards the Islamic School, Daraloom and perhaps it could ended tragically for either or both of us.”