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Opinions of Sunday, 20 May 2007

Columnist: GNA

Fast Track Police Reform

A GNA feature By Francis Ameyibor

Accra, May 18, GNA - The growing agitation for the deepening of democratic governance across Africa has in recent times brought to the fore the urgent need to reform policing, detach it from the colonial ideological braining washing and direct it towards democratic policing. Democratic Policing, therefore, is a normative framework within which the specific structures of a Police Force and its operational strategies may vary, even as they adhere to basic principles.

It embraces not only Police practice, but also the place of policing in relation to the government and governing institutions as well as to the general public. Police Services should recognise and operate according to the basic tenets of democratic governance, the principles of accountability and transparency.

Police Officers are authorized to conduct themselves in a way compatible with a democratic constitutional regime through the appropriate guidance and support from the Police Authorities, and other administrative mechanisms that ensure adherence by Police Officers to democratic principles.


Emphasizing the urgent need for Police reforms, Professor Sonnin G. Tyoden Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jos, Nigeria, recently hypothesized that the effort of African countries to introduce and consolidate democratic governance would be a mirage "if we fail to reform the Police systems that we inherited from Colonial Rulers". According to him, the Police have been used by many autocratic post-colonial African governments to protect their own selfish interests rather than to promote national development and the rights, safety and security of citizens and called for a paradigm shift. In practical terms, the Police are critical to the protection of human rights; safety and security in society, "but history has shown that the Police can also be abused by the rulers and made to violate the rights of citizens with impunity".

Prof Tyoden described the Police institution as one of the most important instruments of government that could be used either to advance or subvert democratic rule.

He, therefore, called for all-encompassing Police reforms, which should aim at reviewing the legal framework of policing to ensure that it satisfied the requirements of democratic governance to ensure effective governmental and non-governmental mechanism for Police accountability.

The Reform should also enhance the capacity and legitimacy of the Police Officers through adequate training; equipping; professional intelligence and investigative capacity; operational professionalism and efficiency; planning and research; supervision and motivational rewards; responsiveness and civility in relating to the citizenry.

"There is no doubt that the Police need to be effective and efficient. Otherwise they and the government would lose public confidence. Efficiency and accountability are not incompatible, they complement and reinforce each other", he noted in a paper presented at a recent three-day regional Conference on Police and Policing Reform in West Africa in Abuja, Nigeria made available to the Ghana News Agency.


In Ghana, politicians, especially opposition figures during the National Democratic Congress led government and those under the present New Patriotic Party dispensation have accused Police personnel of indulging in partisan politicking.

They accused Police personnel of hindering the smooth operation of opposition parties, while creating enabling condition for the ruling party to operate. The Police have been accused of the misuse of the Public Order Act and manhandling of demonstrators. Civilians, who are dissatisfied with the Police, had on some occasions attacked Police stations and Police personnel.

These are worrying signals as the nation prepares for Election 2008 viewed in line with recent Police Administration's operational challenges, where Senior and Junior Officers were alleged to have compromised their professional standards in combating crime and involvement in partisan politics.

These accordingly have impaired the Administration's efforts to combat activities of social deviants, as serious crime continue to permeate both urban and rural communities.


Incidences of armed robbery; rape; burglary; assaults; auto theft; murder; drug trafficking; fraud; bribery with alleged tacit involvement of some Police personnel continue to attract media coverage on a daily basis.

Sad to say, despite Government's efforts at enhancing the professional integrity and competence of the Service, the attitude of the minority criminal elements, who have found their way into the Service, have eroded public confidence and undermined Police credibility and integrity.

Public sentiments and attitude towards Police Officers have deteriorated giving way to many communities resorting to meting out instant justice instead of turning over suspected criminals to the Police.

The courts have also been accused of not being fair and just in the dispensation of justice. Many cases remain pending in the courts and the cost of seeking justice in the courts is becoming increasingly high for the common man.

With all of these lapses, it is clear to see why most citizens though unjustifiable, would elect to render quick justice to suspected criminals instead of turning them over to a system they have less confidence in.

It is, therefore, imperative for the Police Administration to go through drastic reforms; build its public image before the processes for the crucial Elections 2008 warm up. The need to reform policing is, therefore, very crucial if Ghana were to sustain the democratic peace the citizens now enjoyed in a tumultuous West Africa Sub-Region.


It was, therefore, refreshing and timely for President John Agyekum Kufuor, who is gradually cruising to the end of his second two-term, to advise Police Officers to conduct themselves in a manner that was conforming to internationally acceptable operational standards to win the confidence of the public.

"As Officers, you are aware that security challenges facing the world today are enormous such that the cooperation of society is needed. Indeed, the general security of our Nation is the collective responsibility of all us", he stated in an address to Police personnel in Accra.

Affirming his determination to protect and defend the citizenry of Ghana and Africa, President Kufuor advocated for reforms aimed at strengthening African security forces to form closer partnership with civil society to prevent the recurrence of wars and conflicts and their negative effects on the socio-economic development of the Continent. President Kufuor, the African Union Chairman's recognition and need for reforms in policing was welcoming news to civil society and State actors the Ghana News Agency interviewed on the subject.

They said even though it was long overdue the President Kufuor's statements created a new platform for collective responses from all Ghanaians for the promotion of broader participation in Police reforms; identification of priority areas for programmatic intervention on Police and policing reform and helping to create a supportive network for the reform.


They urged the Government and the Police Administration to muster the political and operational will to implement the reform, since there were many more reforms on the shelves than on the ground.

President Kufuor explained that Ghana was considering a Five-Year Strategic Document, which would provide for far-reaching reforms; including a new Disciplinary Code; the Police Service Administration Regulation and Conditions of Service, which should brighten the career prospects of the entire staff of the Service.

Other areas worth noting include; defining political context and legal framework of policing; strengthening internal control systems and building community partnerships for policing.

He said even though globalization was inevitable, he stressed the need for Africa to prepare her citizens appropriately, not only to cope with it but to harness it for national development. He called on the Police Service to come out with new strategies to confront the increasing trans-national crime, which was posing danger to African governments.

The AU Chairman also disclosed a joint Police operation to be launched soon in the Sub-Region to combat the increasing trans-national crime.

Police Reforms should, therefore, be geared towards making the Police more effective and accountable - in line with international notions of democratic policing.


Expanding the frontiers of Democratic Policing, Mr Sean Tait, Director of Criminal Justice Initiative of Open Society Foundation for South Africa, said it referred to the governance as well as the conduct of policing.

He mentioned in particular the protection of human rights, especially those that were required for the sort of unfettered political activity that was the hallmark of democracy as priority areas of democratic policing.

Central to the protection of human rights and of democracy is the protection of democratic political life itself. Police practice itself must thus be geared to this end, and must support and protect the political rights of citizens, including the rights of assembly and free speech.

He also urged Police Officers to recognize that they were also citizens of a democracy. As such they enjoyed the rights bestowed on them by law, and as members of the community needed to be treated in a manner consistent with their dignity and to enjoy decent conditions of service.

Contributing to the debate on Police Reforms, Mr Innocent Chukwuma, Executive Director of CLEEN Foundation, a non-governmental organisation based in Nigeria, noted that the demand for Police reform in Africa took place in difficult contexts, prominent among these was the transition from authoritarianism to liberal democracies and reform in post-conflict settings.

He, therefore, called for an effective advocacy mechanism for Police reform in the Sub-Region, which should focus on such critical issues as: The enforcement of legal accountability, civilian control and oversight of policing in the Sub-Region.

President Kufuor has spoken; the Media, Civil Society Actors; Academia; Politicians; Security Operatives and the general public need to adequately join forces to galvanize support for the immediate prosecution of the reform. 18 May 07