Minister of Home Affairs, Hon. Robeson Benn and Acting Commissioner of Police Mr Clifton Hicken on Tuesday (April 19, 2022) met with over 100 female policewomen from within the various Police divisions at the Officers’ Training Centre, Camp Road, Georgetown.
The meeting with the female police ranks centred on dealing with domestic and gender-based violence reports, dealing with the victims and the need to ensure the right attitude and empathy are displayed when handling such delicate and sensitive matters.
In his address to the female ranks, Minister Benn highlighted the purpose of the engagement by stating, “This conversation, is not simply as a knee-jerk reaction to what has been occurring in the society in respect of the safety of women, and children, but more particularly, how we want to see our Police Force develop.”
“The workplace has to be safe for women,” Minister Benn declared. He noted that issues of sexual harassment and domestic violence are “troubling and a danger not only to women in the Police Force but also to the society and communities at large”.
The Home Affairs Minister pointed out that a sore issue of domestic violence cases is that oftentimes it is not being taken seriously by police ranks at stations.
“We have a far way to go and a long way from where we should be in terms of the respect for women and in respect to the issue of domestic violence,” Minister Benn asserted.
He further elaborated that “we have a recurrent situation where the women complain that they go to the police stations, and they are turned away and that even women police officers fall in with, perhaps the agenda of the men, and perhaps they don't want things to work. They don't want to get involved because it may be a family or a friend.”
Owing to that, Minister Benn appealed to the female officers to be hands-on and more empathetic when dealing with such reports, while urging them that they should be champions in such matters.
“That's why you're here. I had the feeling that the women police officers themselves really should be the champions in this matter - that if a woman or girl or a child is being treated improperly against what the Standing Orders require, it helps that the women police step up and say no, that is not the way it should be done and policewomen should offer protection and support.”
Speaking on the need for a change in the culture of policing, Minister Benn said, “We would like to have a new policing culture, a more diverse Police Force, which represents all our cultures, religions, peoples, and ethnicities in the Guyana Police Force.”
He acknowledged that changes would not happen overnight, “but step by step, day by day, month by month, year by year, improvements can be made.”
Acting Commissioner Hicken, in his remarks to the female ranks, noted that the Police Force recognizes that domestic violence and gender-based violence are topical issues and partnering with other organisations is necessary.
The Top Cop went on to further remind the ranks that despite the Force’s zero-tolerance policy, there is still a high level of deviation whenever reports are made at the stations.
“You're all female ranks and you're supposed to be championing domestic violence because most of the reports coming in, the victims are females. But instead of that, you're exhibiting unprofessional behaviour and trying to settle matters,” Mr Hicken charged.
He issued a stern warning that indiscipline and unprofessionalism will not be condoned.
Mr Hicken, since ascending to the helm of the Force, has focused his and his Executive Leadership Team’s attention on improving the professionalism and integrity of members of the Force. This is evident from the Top Cop’s series of engagements over the past weeks, when he initiated separate meetings with all the commanders, subdivision officers, sergeants and inspectors, to share his vision of building a more cohesive and structured organization.
Also in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting were Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Home Affairs, Ms Mae Thomas; Deputy Commissioner ‘Operations’, Mr Ravindradat Budhram; Force Training Officer, Superintendent Keithon King and Head of the Strategic Management Dept. at the Ministry, Ms Samantha Wickham.