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Opinions of Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Columnist: Abdul Hanan Mohammed EL-Saeed

Every Constable's dream is to become an IGP one day

It is without doubt that every Police Officer at the point of joining the service hopes to exit as an IGP someday. Call it an enviable ambition and you will not be wrong.

This ambition is innate, inborn, it's natural, non negotiable and in fact, is conceived right from the training school.

As humans as everyone else, police officers also have ambitions and dreams just like others from academia to politics, they also want to achieve their goals in time before they reach retirement.

They want to be promoted, become senior officers, commanders, schedule officers and ultimately IGP before retirement and if this dream is delayed or denied by the non availability of vacancies resulting from the award of contracts or delayed promotions. One can only imagine the best disappointment that it comes with.

These dreams and ambitions are those that inspire all police officers to strive hard to reach the pinnacle of the service before reaching the compulsory age of retirement.

Every policeman's ambition regardless of his rank takes everyday and every year seriously if he is to achieve his ambition because promotions from one rank to another comes in every four years.

The police officer counts every day "plus one minus one" hoping to get to the top. Plus one is for how close he getting to his new rank, command position or schedule officer. And "minus one" is how close he gets to his compulsory retirement date. This count down is usually guarded seriously and jealously and any attempt to make it impossible can make any police officer really feel down.

This "everyday plus one minus one" doctrine in service is probably the only reason why anytime any IGP or schedule officer(s) reaches the compulsory retirement age of sixty pursuant to Regulation 115(1) of the C.I.76 and rumours begin to emanate from the grapevine or from the corridors of the appointing authority that there are considerations or plans for extention/contract for a retiring IGP or schedule officer.

Regulation 115(1) of the C.I.76 stipulates that "an officer shall retire from the service on attaining sixty years of age". The consequence of this regulation is the reason why every officer hates delays in promotions.

Here is what our politicians must know; when the above regulation is "ignored" and a contract is given especially in respect of the IGP or any schedule officer(s) then it creates the kind of tension that the media houses are reporting about.

The tension, properly so called, perceived or real, usually does not happen only at the top level of the service but also trickles down to the very bottom because of the anxiety and expectation gap created as a result of whether or not there will be a contract or not.

Any extention of the retirement of any officer in the service presupposes that other subordinate officer or officers are to wait whether they are happy or not until the person offered the contract retires before a vacancy can be created for them.

And mind you, by which time they would have also counted the proverbial plus one minus one which either draws them to their retirement ages or sends them "parking home" with some measure of disappointment.

If all eleven Regional Commanders for example in all the Police Regions are handed one year contract each it means that for the entire duration of the contract, there will not be vacancies for eleven other Senior Officer who could have been promoted to occupy those Regional Command positions of those contract officers.

It is without doubt that the position of the Inspector General of Police is one of the many appointments that President has the solely prerogative acting in consultation with the council of state to appoint.

It is instructive to note that when an IGP is handed a one year contract for example, by the time that one year is over, he might have effectively or inadvertently retired at least three commissioners, four Deputy commissioners, five Assistant Commissioners, several Chief Superintendents, Superintendents, Deputy Superintendents, Assistant Superintendents, and countless number of Chief Inspectors down to Constables who probably had the ambition and the potential to lead in specific command positions but due to the fact that one or two persons have virtually blocked the creation of vacancies they could have also occupied.

Sometimes it is hard to understand why some officers will want to overstay their welcome and fight to be given contacts upon reaching their compulsory retirement age when they know that when they do so, they deny others the opportunity to rise in the service.

Article 202(1) of the 1992 constitution empowers the president to appoint the Inspector General of Police in consultation with the council of state.

This power understandably, is one that even members of the service who feel that any serving senior officer must not be handed any contract so that they can also progress faster towards the top cannot complain about.

In carrying out this constitutional prerogative of appointing IGP, the president aught to address his mind to how other personnel in the service feel any time a contract handed to retiring officers and the attendant inconvenience and displeasure it creates which goes to affect the morale of the service.

The Mahama administration's example of handing over contracts to some two former IGP's culminating in disaffection and anger amongst the rank and file of the police service is enough food for thought for the current Nana Addo government to take a cue from and shelve any plans or considerations of contact for the current IGP who has been reported by sections of the media not to be finding things easy at all.

They cite for example the killings of police officers on duty, the lamentations of the service been challenged and complaints of it being broke as just but a few shortcomings of the IGP's tenure.

This appointing authority need to take cognisance of the fact that any time there's a contract IGP in the service, such a person unable to function effectively not only because most of the subordinate officers know that he has "overstayed his welcome" but also they consider him as civilian donning uniform to work thereby making it really difficult if not impossible for him to have full control of them.

So one can imagine what will happen in a situation where someone who is supposed to be the head of the service is almost relegated to the background and made to look like a "toothless bull dog" because he is seen as a "civilian IGP" who has not enough power again to control his men.

Any time the service gets to this point, regulations 6(1) of the C.I.76 that makes the IGP the head of the service is totally defeated and rendered almost useless and the service almost becomes dysfunctional.

Considering this humongous hurdle that I have alluded which has to be surmounted by contract officer, if I had my way, I would advise that no single schedule officer or more especially an IGP who has attained the compulsory retirement age should accept any contract no matter how he or she feels pressured to accept it. By so doing, such an officer will be setting a good example for others to emulate which I believe will create the needed vacancies for other subordinate officers to fill.

Anybody who has reached the apex of the service even for a day should consider himself privileged and be happy that his ambition in the service has been fulfilled and to that extent, there's absolutely no need for such a person to "overstay his welcome" so as not to be seen a nuisance by others and be called names or even disrespected in some cases.

There is life after police and in fact, there are too many opportunities when one retires at the IGP position. It is good to always take a bow when the clapping is loudest than to wait to be perceived as the one who has blocked vacancies and preventing others from climbing up.

Abdul Hanan Mohammed EL-Saeed 0244087295 Accra