There is expected to be less tension between the members Guyana Police Force (GPF) and civilians with amendments to the Police Amendment Bill 2021, receiving the nod in the National Assembly on Monday.
Presenting the Bill, Minister of Home Affairs, Robeson Benn said the amendment is intended to have police recourse to less-lethal force whenever there is an engagement between police and civilians.
“In the first instance, we want to, by the insertion, immediately after the definition of ‘aircraft’ to include arms which includes less lethal weapons by amending section two of the principal Act,” the Minister said.
In this instance, less-lethal weapons include nightsticks, chemical irritants, conducted electrical weapons, kinetic projectiles and water cannon. This is to expressly provide the type of weapons that may be issued to the police force in the discharge of their functions under the Act.
Minister Benn said that with the insertion of those terms, “we identify that we want to avoid situations in which the engagement moves from a scuffle because we have seen these instances on Facebook and other places, where persons have taken the resort of scuffling and even fighting with the police, resisting arrest and unfortunately in some instances the police may have to go to what is described as lethal force.”
“We want to avoid that we want to avoid the result of having to go to the use of firearms. We want to be able to go through a staged response in respect in the use of force by our police,” Minister Benn stated.
The Minister noted that the proposed amendments are not unique to Guyana or any part of the world. He said it will go a long way in reducing the tension and friction between police and persons who may come in contact with the police for arrest and reduce the possibility of injury or even death.
“I think each one of us should welcome our ability to move in a stage towards a position where we can bring calm to a situation, where we can have arrest which are less tendentious… I think everyone should take the position that these amendments were long in coming, and should be properly placed in the police act so that any resort which should have been made would be properly identified in law,” the Home Affairs Minister said.
The Amendment to the Bill also sees the removal of Section 25 of the principal Bill. This section sought to make provision for the use of DNA information for the purpose of identification.
The Amendment to the Police Act was also supported by Government Member of Parliament Sanjeev Datadin and several Opposition Members of Parliament.