Tony Vieira's Comments
18 October 2017

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Police Force
(Aired 19 January 2002)

   Like you I read with great interest our Home Affairs Minister telling us of all the new legislation he is seeking, to make our roads safer for our people.

   We will now be required to wear seat belts, we will now have to be careful how much we drink before we drive, we will bombarded by Radar to ensure that we drive within the speed limit, additionally the use of radar detection devices "fuzz Busters" are prohibited. Under these new regulations the fines range from $2000 for exceeding the speed limit to $30,000 for driving under the influence.

   Our laws it appears do not allow for convictions based on the use of breathalyzers and the use of radar in determining if we are intoxicated or driving too fast, so these regulations seek to make the use of these devices legal.

 These are necessary and laudable measures to make our roads safer. And they have my support. But surely important issues are being overlooked.

   Normally one is considered to be drunk or of impaired judgement, if your Blood Alcohol Concentration [BAC] is above 80 milligrams of alcohol to 100 cc's of blood. One can have this reading 30 minutes after consuming as little as 4 beers. Now since the lungs are where the blood receives the oxygen we breathe, and the air is in such close proximity to the blood supply separated only by a thin membrane in the lungs, when we breathe into the breathalyzer the alcohol shows up, but in Europe there have been several cases where drunk drivers have won cases because the statutes establishing the use of breathalyzers did not specifically identify the breathalyzer type and the reading on it that determines excessive BAC. So error number one, the statute must identify what breathalyzer type we will use and what reading will constitute a Blood Alcohol Concentration inconsistent with sobriety for driving. So our Minister telling us that the breathalyzers will be bought later but that the law is on he fast track for implementation NOW, is really ill advised if not nonsensical.

    The second thing I discovered is that when you breathe into these breathalyzers if the police officer uses his communications radio during the 40 second period it takes for the device to record your reading, you can get a positive result even though you did not have one drink, if they test you near to any TV or radio station you can show a positive test. Using Listerine or cough syrup a short time before a test can also give a positive reading, so there are dangers in the use of these devices.

    This is Guyana where everything is abused, so a policeman, stops you, he decides that you do not look sober to him or he needs a raise so he takes out his dirty, battered, breathalyzer which was lying on the floor of the police vehicle with dust, footprints and dog dung all over it and you know that it has not been serviced or cleaned since it was bought, he tells you to put it to your lips and blow into it. Now you happen to be only very slightly intoxicated but you are not mad, so you see the hygienic danger of putting your mouth to the thing, since someone with lip sores or HIV has just blown into it in addition to the dog dung, What happens then?  If you refuse you can get fined or go to jail, in fact driving under the influence is now a criminal offense in most countries and goes on your record making you a criminal and refusing to take the breathalyzer test is also a criminal charge but you may decide, like me, to take the charge for being drunk than breathe into the dirty, badly maintained thing, and let your lawyer sort it out later in court. Nowhere in the proposed new regulations, as it is in Europe, have I seen that you can demand to be taken to an accredited medical institution to determine by a safely conducted blood test if your blood alcohol level is inconsistent with sobriety to operate a vehicle, I for one demand that I be given this choice, IN the regulations.

    Incredibly ladies and gentlemen nowhere in Gajraj's regulations have I heard anything suggesting that if you fail the breathalyzer test, the police officer has the right to suspend and hold your drivers license for 24 hours and refuse to allow you to move that vehicle from where it is. Are we therefore going to charge the driver and let him continue on his drunken way to kill someone two miles down the road? The statute must state clearly and unambiguously, that if you fail the breathalyzer test, [if you decide to take it] you cannot drive for 24 hours and the police will have the right to demand that you surrender your driver's license and get someone else to move the car this is error No. 3.

    Additionally I have to ask who will calibrate and maintain these breathalyzers and radar guns? This is after all a country that had us all panicking for months because we were told that we were all being systematically poisoned by thallium since the Public Hospital Georgetown was incompetent to carry out this simple test.

 Error number 3 is that the mini buses which constitute the greatest hazard on our roads will now be required to place seat belts on their passengers, it would be difficult if not impossible to do it anyway. Incidentally if a mini bus wants to have a stereo in the bus for the enjoyment of their passengers, once they are not giving them an ear ache, what is the problem?

    In researching this commentary I discovered what international standards constitute a properly manned police force, it is around 2 police officers per 1000 citizens, so if we have 750 thousand people living in this country we should have 1500 police officers to have an effective police force, we apparently are supposed to have 4227 police officers in this country at least that is what our current estimates call for. The police inform us that the force is short staffed by about 20% this means that we have 3382 police officers, more than double the required amount, WHERE ARE THEY??? So we come to error number 4, where is it stated that a proper analysis was done of the strength of the police force and how are we going to deploy them in a manner which compliment their numbers, that is where anyone with one functioning brain cell should start the process of reform.

   Granted that in the countries where this rule of thumb of 2 police officers per 1000 persons in the population exists, there are no police officers doing the kinds of jobs we find our police officers doing.

   Driving tests, fitness checks of vehicles, secretarial work, court work, immigration, running the passport offices, security at the homes of ministers and judges etc. so in real terms according to our police department sources, 100 police officers are employed doing these non police type functions, this is a ridiculously low number but that is what the police themselves say so using this number of 100 officers occupied doing non police functions we still are supposed to have 3382 police officers in this country that is 4.5 police officers per 1000 citizens, more than double what it should be, I am again forced to ask the question, where are they??? And what the hell are we paying them for???  Go to any police station in the country after 6 PM and you will find that our police ranks work mostly during the day and there are hardly any police officers manning our stations after 6 PM to help you if someone is breaking down your house to steal your property.

    In researching this comment I found an incredible document from a township called Hamilton in New Jersey in the US. In the year 2001 the chief of police of Hamilton in a report to his mayor and town council, was defending his use of bicycles to make his patrols more effective around the town at night i.e. he bought 9 bicycles for them, he even used a pickup truck to move his police officers to their designated beat areas where they patrol on bicycle with radios. This same police chief has recorded that by increasing his police force by 6.6 percent he reduced crime by 19.3 percent between 1991 to 2001. Surely an accomplishment worth noting. Increasing OUR police force apparently results in MORE crime not LESS, Why are we, a HIPC nation, not DEPLOYING our police using bicycles? It is cheaper, far more effective than walking and apparently a legitimate current practice even in highly developed nations.

   No lawyer I have spoken to can recall ONE case in the last 20 years where forensic evidence played any kind of significant role in contributing to a criminal conviction. So we know that our police labs. and technical staff to process crime scenes are non existent. 

    Ladies and gentlemen in 1989 the then Government of Guyana asked the British to give us a grant to do a study and tell us what sort of public service administration we need to manage our affairs. The British studied our population, our system of government and reported that 11 ministries and 11 ministers, can if properly qualified run our affairs efficiently. As a result of this study the Hoyte administration cut the ministries to conform to this structure and in 1991 we had 11 ministers, the PPP currently have 21 ministers, does anyone know what it costs to employ these 10 extraneous ministers, they have vehicles with drivers, they have special security at their homes 24 hours per day and are protected by the police when they move around, they have offices with secretaries, air conditioning units, computers, they have staff who duplicate and confuse other ministries. I wont even go into how much they are costing us by creaming off the top.  

   We have double the amount of ministers we need and double the police officers we need, NEITHER of which are serving the nation effectively, this is where you start, Gajraj, not with radar guns and breathalyzers, in the end it will solve nothing except that the bribes on the street will now be much higher. Instead of 4 grand, it will now be 10 grand per transgression.