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Opinions of Wednesday, 8 January 2003

Columnist: Press

Purging the Police Service?

George Ayisi-Boateng for Accra Mail

The New Patriotic Party (NPP) as a political party when seeking power to govern the country, among other things, promised a well equipped Police Service to enable our policemen and women perform more efficiently. On assumption of office, President Kufuor made moves towards fulfilment of this promise. He went to Nigeria, sought the assistance of his good friend General Obasanjo and brought in a number of Peugeot cars to be used by the Police. It is on record that though the number is not enough, every district office of the Ghana Police Service has a vehicle to help them in their work.

In the President's "State of the Nation Address 2002", he said a major recruitment drive has commenced to increase the number of personnel in the Police Service dramatically until the ratio between the police and the population rises to an appreciable level. He indicated that four hundred vehicles and communication gadgets would be supplied to the service for better performance. The President in that address talked of quality training of personnel to restore discipline and loyalty in the profession. These were said on Thursday, 31st January 2002 at Parliament House.

The questions to be asked here are

    (1) has the NPP government been able to deliver on its promises to the Police?
    (2) Is our Police Service performing its duties, imparting discipline and loyalty to the state and the citizenry and if not why?
    (3) Are Police personnel using the vehicles for the real purpose for which they were purchased?

These questions came to mind when I read a story carried by The Accra Daily Mail on Monday, December 9, 2002 with the headline "Police improve image". The story quoted Mrs. Elizabeth Mills-Robertson us having said: "The Police Service is poised to purge itself of its negative image". The story said the public and corporate organisations should lend a helping hand to service by providing basic logistics such as computers, fax machines and other office equipment to the Police Public Relations Department to champion the image building process.

We appreciate the fact that all state institutions including the Police Service were left to "rot" over decades. No meaningful attempts were made to resource the police to enable them change their image. However, Mrs. Mills-Robertson did not elaborate on how the police would purge itself.

My dictionary gives the meaning of "purge" as make clean, purify, get rid off; process of removal of undesirables. From these, the lady as head of Police Administration has to be ruthless, for the task is a Herculean one.

Not long ago, Alhaji Asuma Banda launched a fund to help the Police. He donated a number of vehicles to the service before government moved in. But what are the cars being used for? There are reports that some personnel of the service use police vehicles to convey timber boards. It is no secret that some use the police cars as their private cars. Call a police station for the arrest of a suspect and the answer you will receive is, "we have no vehicles", but the vehicles can be seen carrying children to school or taking "madam to the market". This calls for serious purging! If the few logistics on hand are not used judiciously, any additions would be useless.

When the Vice President launched the Campaign for Greater Discipline, he complained about indiscipline in the Police Service and asked them to work towards changing their image. He urged police personnel to stop collecting bribes at road checkpoints. It is sad to hear tro-tro or taxi drivers saying: "Oh just give the Policeman two thousand cedis and you will be set free". This has resulted in careless driving, overloading and over speeding on our roads and numerous fatal accidents.

I like the inscription: "Every caller is a potential ally" boldly posted at police stations, but the Police PR department needs to tell Ghanaians more about who that potential ally is.

It is high time we re-oriented ourselves as Ghanaians, and Police personnel should take the lead. As crime fighters and peacekeepers, they need to purge themselves and flush out the bad nuts involved in rape cases, misuse of vehicles, bribery and corruption, for these sum up the indiscipline and unprofessionalism.

No matter the number of personnel, vehicles and other equipment if nothing is done to change the low image of the Police Service, we will not have peace and security in this country.