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OPINION: Police promotions impasse: bigger than a storm in a teacup, bad for ordinary Guyanese

Last Updated on Wednesday, 30 June 2021, 7:02 by Denis Chabrol

by GHK Lall

There is this ongoing, sharply escalating, situation between the President and the Police Service Commission.  It has been called a lot of things: defiance and showdown, improper and illegal, among other more searing reactions ad conclusions to where matters stand now.  No matter how I look at what has happened, the wish is that this had taken place at a less heated temperature, and in a less confrontational atmosphere by both sides.  All surrounding circumstances now assume ominous underpinnings, with the Guyanese public sure to be victim of the worst fallouts.

Much has been made about who is right and who is wrong, who is disrespectful and who is interfering, and who is contemptuous of the court and who acts unconstitutionally.  Like our unending elections disagreements and clashes, this conflict (not yet at crisis proportions) will prove to be just as insoluble, with all sides holding on to their respective positions, regardless of who says what, and however unfavorably the issue at hand concludes.  Wherever and however, it concludes; and that incorporates the sanctity of the law, respect for it, and all the lovely talk that we are a nation of law and not of men.  As is now usual here, it depends on who interprets the law, who follows it.

Meanwhile, there are many people involved in this fiasco; it is not a storm in a teacup, far from such.  First, when this is closed out, at some point, there will be some police officers who will be denied, and some will be looked upon scornfully.  Second, neither is good for esprit de corps within the Guyana Police Force (GPF), nor the safety and security of the citizenry.  Third, I can fool myself and speak of closing of ranks, and moving on, but some serious damage, terrible resentments, and tragic consequences are all bound to be part of this sharp and deteriorating set of circumstances.  Fourth, management and members of the GPF are not vaccinated from such human weaknesses that flow from disappointment, from perceived injustice, and from the spiraling rancor that accompanies.  Fifth, we can pretend that this is contained matter, and that its impacts will be negligible, that normalcy within the GPF will follow.  I don’t so pretend.

There are too many individuals named in that promotion list.  As to how many will be finally favored or not is up in the air.  What is noteworthy is that the acting commissioner’s recommendations do not feature prominently, and that the commission’s list encircles a significant number of very senior officers.  Gauntlets have been thrown down by both contending sides, and in a most public fashion.  I think that there have been some excesses by both parties, which is the most I will say today.  What I do believe is that, regardless of the outcome, some police officers would end up being bypassed, which is sure to foster great ongoing foment within the GPF.  That means ill for the Guyanese population.

Today, the GPF is struggling, with many contentions and many conclusions about politicisation, about corruption, about manufactured public relations, about orchestrations and divisions, which all raise troubling questions about ethical dedication to duty, associated performance deliverables.  In a nutshell, I think there is a public fight going on for the soul of the GPF.  And this much I must say now: whenever there is too much external political intrusion, whether perceived or real, into the management of police, then the larger dependent populace suffers.  I tender American big cities, especially besieged inner cities, as examples of what I mean, of where I believe that developments within the GPF point.  When the spirit of the officer corps is this stressed, maybe fissured from right now, then the public pays a price.  The more politics intervene, the more police management reins in energies and strategies.  Like all polices and procedures, the proofs of implementation still must occur on the ground, in the trenches, which means people.  To that precious not barterable commodity, I would be so crude to include property and peace of mind.  The former is palpable and makes the media streams in some roughhewn form; the latter is invisible and internal to the sufferer.  I admit that there is much that I am deliberately leaving unsaid.  Nevertheless, I give my fellow Guyanese, including partisans from both sides, credit to be able to understand the fullness of what is embedded here in this promotions battle, and understand how this could play out in the real world.  It is about more than the promotion of dozens of senior officers, and scores more down the ranks.  It is about the meanings of all of this for ordinary Guyanese, for determined and legitimate crimefighting, and for a self-respecting body of protectors.

In closing, I assert that we were not in good place, despite the statistics intended to soothe, with law enforcement before this police promotion turbulence unfolded, unsettlingly at the beginning, alarmingly currently.  Because this cuts through so much, and casts such a wide arc, it is my position that it will take the GPF significant space and time-energy and inspiration, too-to gather itself to serve truly at the best that it can offer, all limitations considered.  The biggest loser in this would be Guyanese.  I fervently hope that I am wrong.