Sunday, September 23, 2007

Stella Says… Criminal activity to restrain criminal activity does not establish law

by Stella Ramsaroop

(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 23 September 2007)

Quite a few years back, a member of my family was pulled over by an American policeman for no apparent reason while using my car. My family member was of Indian descent and the policeman was white.

The policeman not only physically roughed up my family member, but also took the car’s registration and proof of insurance from the glove compartment and tossed it into the nearest dumpster. The policeman then took my family member to jail for the night.

When I heard the story of what happened, I went to that police station and raised hell. The police tried to lie and say the car had no registration or proof of insurance, which is a law, but I told them the car belonged to me and I personally put that paperwork in the car myself.

A few years later, I was driving with a friend after leaving a baseball game and was pulled over for not seeing the patrol car’s lights (it was in my blind spot). When the policeman reached door of my car he was yelling and cussing, which just set me off.

With a very stern reprimand, I reminded the officer that he was a public servant and had absolutely no right to speak to me in such a disrespectful tone. As he gather my paperwork to run it through his computer back at the patrol car, I told my rather freaked out friend that I planned to visit the police station and have a talk with the officer’s commander.

However, the officer returned to my car with a completely altered disposition and apologised profusely for being so rude. He sent me on my way with no ticket since it was obvious that I was not in fact attempting to snub his authority while driving on the streets.

Even after these and other less injurious yet still sore incidents with various law enforcement officials (like the officer who rightfully pulled me over for speeding but approached my car full of young children with cigarette in his hand), I still hold police in high regard.

I do not view police officers as infallible as I once did as a child. That open-mouth awe passed a long time ago. However, acknowledging them as humans who have sworn to protect society from the criminally minded, I give them the proper respect.

I have also lived long enough to know there can be bad apples in any police force. These bad apples are typically megalomaniacs who only joined law enforcement to lord a little power over the very people who gave them the power to start with.

Such is the case with those police officers and soldiers who brutalised two Buxtonian men this week. With protectors of society like this, who needs criminals? Actually, there are criminals in jail right now – convicted by society for their crimes - who have not acted so wickedly as these “protectors” of society.

My own experiences with law enforcement helped to forge a realistic view of the protectors of society. However, there is absolutely no reason for those Buxtonian men and their families to trust or respect these “protectors” anymore.

In fact, if the police came to my house, locked me up without reason, poured corrosive liquid on my skin, beat me mercilessly, seared my genitalia and withheld food and water – the police would be the very last people to whom I would go for help. Nor would I ever trust or respect them again.

These so-called “protectors” are nothing more than criminals themselves who should be charged with attempted murder and locked away for a very long time. Moreover, any government official or law enforcement/military supervisor who condoned this type of activity should also be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

This type of atrocious behaviour by public servants only serves to generate a sympathetic tone toward the criminal elements being sought by law enforcement and the military in Buxton. Brutalising the citizens of this village is counterproductive to the mission at hand.

I do not know who had the harebrained idea that assaulting anyone (citizen or criminal) would remedy this situation, but that person should be replaced with a civil-minded individual who respects the rights of all humans and insists on the preservation of the law – even from the ranks themselves.

How utterly outlandish that anyone should have to suggest that law enforcement and military ranks should observe the law while they carry out their duty to preserve the law. Criminal activity to restrain criminal activity does not establish law – it undermines law and order at every turn.

I know President Jagdeo is busy celebrating the favourable ruling of the maritime border dispute – and well he should. However, at a time such as this it is necessary for him to take a tough stance on this issue and denounce the actions of those involved in the assault on these men and insist that justice be carried out.

Only by arresting those responsible for brutalising these two men will a measure of the trust and respect due to the real protectors of society return. Who knows how many others to which this has happened but the media has not heard about.

I certainly do not want the criminal elements in Guyana to continue terrorising the good people of the nation. I have long chided the government to do something about the crime situation. However, I certainly believe this can be done without brutalisation and assault.

If those in charge cannot find a way to fight crime without breaking the laws themselves – then it is time to put someone else in charge and protect the people from those who are suppose to be protecting them.

Email: StellaSays[at]

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