Following a massive fire of unknown origin which destroyed more than 80% of the Brickdam Police Station, Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn, MP has announced that the Government has already engaged its engineers to “think now” about designing a temporary police headquarters.
Minister Benn made the disclosure on Saturday during a press briefing. The minister was accompanied by senior representatives of the Guyana Police Force (GPF) and other Ministers of Government.
“Issues relating to a future building is already being considered by the engineers. We have asked them to think now about what we need for a temporary location and in terms of a new police headquarters building for a 4A at Brickdam Police Station. We know about the necessity for a durable, sustainable new headquarters at Brickdam. That will be considered properly,” the Minister explained to the media.
Minister Benn expressed that the GPF, and by extension, the country, has suffered a “great loss at the Brickdam Police Station”. The home affairs minister emphasised that efforts are being made to ensure that operations are restored as quickly as possible.
“Already the IT specialist will be working to ensure that all the arrangements for the callings to the Guyana Police Control Centre will be put properly in place.”
Commissioner of Police (ag), Nigel Hoppie shared that the Division has “immediately” put systems in place to ensure the safety and security of the citizenry.
“There should be no fear,” the Top Cop assured. “We will continue to do patrols and preserve the peace and order in R4A [‘A’ Division]. The structure of the estate is in excess of 100 years old, but we will maintain law and order in the society.”
‘A’ Division Commander, Simon McBean shared similar sentiments. He noted that all of the patrols are spread out across Georgetown and will continue to work diligently.
“We are working to relocate Brickdam proper so that reports can be accepted from the members of the public. By the end of a meeting, we will have decided where that relocation will take place,” the Commander told the press.
In responding to questions, Commissioner Hoppie was keen to note that he does not see the destroying the HQ as a displacement of ranks, since the 398 police officers will be relocated.
To this end, he pointed out, “Those who are on duty will remain on duty. There is another barrack where the ranks will be staying tonight going forward.”
Response to the blaze
“Despite the shock and surprise, the response from the people on the ground and the ranks was very heartening. Everyone responded very adequately,” Minister Benn told DPI while at the scene of the Brickdam fire. Several Cabinet Members were also on the scene to lend support.
The home Affairs minister said the police ranks made “valid efforts” to save documents. He was also content with the prompt response by the Guyana Fire Service, which arrived at the scene in under six minutes. But most importantly, the Minister expressed his satisfaction that there were no casualties.
“Sixteen inmates who were in the lockups were safely removed and taken to safety. Firearms and ammunition were also safely removed from the station.”
Subsequent to the removal of the inmates and firearms, the blaze quickly destroyed the decades-old building. In giving a breakdown, Commissioner Hoppie said the Property Room, Enquiries Office, the Traffic Department, as well as the Mess Hall were completely destroyed by the fire. In addition, vehicles that were parked in the compound, which were under investigation, as well as mangled police motorcycles and cars, were lost in the blaze.
Only a small section of the Police HQ remains untouched by the fire, namely the police barracks, the lockups and the impact base. A generator was also saved from the flames.
Minister Benn said the Brickdam Police Station was in the process of digitising files and documents, as he pointed to the “legacy” of paper records in Guyana. He indicated that an inventory of the records lost will have to be compiled shortly.
Notwithstanding this setback, Police Commissioner Hoppie gave his assurance that daily operations in Georgetown will continue.
“Most of our ranks were out on patrol when the incident happened, so all operations vehicles were saved,” the Top Cop added.
Moving forward, Minister Benn said the Guyana Fire Service will be conducting a thorough investigation into the cause of the fire. Meanwhile, Assistant Commissioner Clifton Hicken said the perimeter of the Brickdam Police Station will be closed off for the next 48 hours or more to allow the Fire Service to properly conduct the investigation and sanitisation of the area.