The concept of the Cops and Faith Community Network (CFCN) was first mooted during January 2012 by Reverend Dr. Kwame Gilbert, a member of the Advisory Board of the Community Action Component (CAC) of the Citizen Security Programme (CSP), at a meeting in the Boardroom of then Ministry of Home Affairs, now Ministry of Public Security. The Advisory Board was chaired by the Minister of Home Affairs.
Mr. Kwame Gilbert had seen the programme on stream in Boston, USA, during a visit there and was of the view that it may be applicable to Guyana. Basically, the programme, as carried out in the USA, facilitates religious leaders patrolling with police ranks specifically to assist in dealing with youths whom they may come into contact with, mainly through counseling, and providing counseling to youths who come into conflict with the law for minor offences in general.
The concept was accepted by the Advisory Board following a presentation done by Kwame Gilbert as it was recognised that the programme was a crime prevention effort intended to treat with juvenile first offenders, and involving minor offences, as a preemptive intervention to the New Opportunity Corps.
Subsequently, following a similar presentation made during a meeting of the then Force’s Senior Management Team on March 21, 2012, the Force Administration supported the concept of the Cops and Faith Community Network in principle, paving the way for the modalities and standard operating procedures to be worked out.
It was posited that the objectives of the programme included the creation of a mechanism for community problem solving (which as an extension may lead to community building and improved police community relations); the religious leaders will provide mediatory functions to young persons who have for the first time come into conflict with the law for minor offences; the religious leaders can avail themselves as mentors for young people who may be in conflict with the law as a preemptive intervention to the New Opportunity Corps; and create a data base of religious leaders who will provide chaplaincy and counseling to law enforcement officers who may require such services.
It was recognised firstly that in many communities religious organisations function as an anchoring force, since they become more a part of people’s lives in the absence of community help services; secondly, many religious leaders are trained to deal with special needs of disadvantaged populations and they often lend a level of compassion and understanding that traditional social service agencies do not; and thirdly, in many communities the religious leaders are often viewed as the leader and the voice of moral and secular authority - they can rally their congregants and the wider community to work towards lasting solutions to problems related to crime and violence.
However, in view of the fact that the Religious Leaders who were receptive to being involved in the Network had reservations about actually being on patrol with the police, it was decided that the programme will only involve counselling, and not any actual joint patrols involving the police and the Faith Community.
After discussions with Religious Leaders of the three main religions in the country, documenting a set of Standard Operating Procedures, compiling the list of acceptable minor offences for which interventions by the Religious Leaders were to be conducted, briefing of the Subordinate Officers in charge of the identified Police Stations/Outposts, and the identifying of the Religious Leaders to be attached to the specific police locations, the Cops and Faith Community Network was officially launched on Thursday September 12, 2013, as a pilot project in the ten communities which were involved in the Community Action Component of the Citizen Security Programme.
The communities were:
Consequently, the following eight (8) Police Stations/Outposts were involved in the pilot project:
Agricola/Mc Doom - Agricola Police Outpost
Angoy’s Avenue - Central Police Station
Overwinning/Glasgow/Edinburgh - Sisters Police Station
Port Mourant - Whim Police Station
Kilcoy/Chesney/Fyrish - Rose Hall Outpost
Rose Hall - Rose Hall Outpost
Sophia - Turkeyen Police Station
Plaisance - Sparendaam Police Station
Buxton/Friendship - Vigilance Police Station
Annandale/Lusignan - Vigilance Police Station
An official book for the recording of interventions was opened at each of the eight locations.
It was agreed that after six months an assessment would be done with a view to determine whether the concept of the Cops and Faith Community Network should be extended throughout all the Police Divisions.
The review and assessment conducted at the end of the pilot stage was highly positive and consequently the initiative has been expanded countrywide within the police divisions, though not yet fully on stream in ‘F’ Division’ where, while the Sub-Divisional Officers and Station SOs have been sensitised, the system is not yet actually operational.
An analysis of the CFCN in terms of treating with juvenile first offenders has revealed that unto July 31, 2015, there has been a total of one hundred and eighty six (186) interventions supported by the religious community.
The interventions involved 95 male and 91 female young persons between the ages of 10 and 17 years. In all cases the youths were counseled by the religious leaders and following the involvement of parents/guardians, and the victims where necessary, the majority of them were warned and sent away.
Recently, resulting from discussions between the Guyana Police Force and religious leaders involved in the CFCN, the CFCN has progressed from being just a crime prevention effort to one of social intervention in the society.
On Saturday December 06, 2014, the Guyana Police Force in collaboration with the Cops and Faith Community Network (CFCN) formally launched two projects, Chaplaincy and Family Liaison for victims of serious crimes and domestic violence, at the Police Officers’ Training Centre, Eve Leary.
The concept involved in the Force Chaplaincy is the involvement of the CFCN to provide chaplaincy services to members of the Guyana Police Force, particularly those who have had traumatic experiences. It is recognised that there are police ranks who visit crime scenes such as shooting incidents or murder where they have various experiences that may have a long term effect on them, with a resulting unnoticed pressure building up that may eventually affect them psychologically.
Consequently, in situations where a rank or a group of ranks has been exposed to a traumatic situation it is intended to provide counselling through the CFCN in order to bring some psychological relief. Should the intervention at this level be considered not to be enough based on feedback, then higher and more in depth treatment will be sought.
As a precursor to the initiating of the chaplaincy project, during July 2014 the Guyana Police Force appointed a Force Chaplain, Pastor Patrick Doolichand, who is coordinating the Chaplaincy project and other projects involving the CFCN in addition to ceremonial duties. Our last Force Chaplain was Reverend Gilbert Harris who retired from the Police Force on March 02, 1991.
Also a number of members of the Guyana Police Force and the religious community comprising Christians, Muslims and Hindus, participated in a Level One Community Service Chaplaincy Training programme between September 04 and 06 last year that was organised by the Police in collaboration with the CFCN. The training programme was facilitated by officials of Chaplaincy International and placed emphasis on giving guidance and counseling.
The participants, comprising 50 police ranks and 62 religious leaders (50 Christians, 8 Hindu, and 4 Muslim) have since been certified as counselors by Chaplaincy International.
In relation to the Family Liaison for victims of serious crimes and domestic violence, it was recognised that in some instances the victims of serious crimes are not cooperating fully with the police investigators on issues such as giving statements, attending identification parades and attending court. It is therefore felt that the involvement of the religious leaders attached to the CFCN can have a positive impact by way of bringing some psychological relief to the victims in the first instance, along with giving encouragement for their cooperation with the police as well as the provision of feedback to them on the progress of the investigations into a particular matter.
Another benefit here is that in many instances persons are more comfortable talking to a religious leader and additionally the presence of the religious leader will serve to motivate ranks to be more professional in their delivery of service and consequently assist in enhancing public trust.
Another project where the Police Force is receiving support from the CFCN is the Inter-Agency Suicide Prevention Help Line which was launched by the Force on Thursday August 06, 2015, under the theme “You call, we listen and help.” It is an avenue whereby depressed persons, or their relatives or friends, can call in with a view to the affected person receiving psychological assistance by way of counseling. A higher level of intervention will be sought through mental health specialists should it become necessary in any particular case.
In addition to the CFCN, the Police Force is being supported in this initiative under the Force’s Social Crime Prevention Programme by the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Social Protection, the Private Sector and other social partners.
The initiatives have seen the appointment of Police Community Relations Officers in each Police Division who will treat not only with projects of the CFCN but also the social programmes that the Force has on stream countrywide.
There are some 282 members of the religious community presently involved in the CFCN countrywide, which is also assisting with the invigilating of the Learner/Driver Theoretical Examinations in the Divisions, with a view to brining greater integrity to the process.