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Opinions of Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Columnist: Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie

IGP! Call your men to order

I am not the Interior Minister; neither am I empowered by Ghana’s constitution to issue instructions to the Inspector General of Police. But I believe I have the freedom to express my misgivings about goings-on in my beloved Ghana, once I do not step on any toes or offend the law.

Be careful not to find my caption distasteful. You may replace it with the worst heading by the time you soak the content dispassionately and objectively.

I am angered and frustrated by the demise of the 17-year old student of the St. Pauls SHS at Denu in the Volta Region. He died prematurely simply because a police officer trained and paid with tax payer’s sweat was either incompetent or simply negligent.

My anger stems from the fact that, in my journalism practice over the last decade, I have read too many of similar stories that break my heart.

I have often asked these questions; what was the security officer thinking? Was the civilian wielding any firearm? Does the officer understand the rudiments of his or her work? What kind of training do they get? And then the last question, that rarely gets answered; so how severe is that officer’s punishment going to be? That is even if he or she is punished at all.

My intention is not to attack the integrity of the Ghana Police Service and any of its officers. I am only seeking to ask the police not to be killing the very innocent citizens rather they should be protecting due to negligence and at times incompetence.

I want to assume that most Ghanaians may not be privy to the kind of training exercise new police or military recruits go through; and so have very little or no idea about crowd control, which I believe is a key component of their training.

But I am of the view that regardless of this training, the natural human brain infused with common sense often not acquired through schooling, knows that you don’t need a gun to control ‘unarmed’ rioting SHS students.

On Sunday February 9, Adio Rahkee, a first year Visual Arts student was hit by a stray bullet. The incident reportedly occurred when the police officers who were on patrol duties few meters away from the school, were called in to quell disturbances that had erupted.

The deceased was said to have been hit when some angry students went on rampage vandalizing school property and attacking tutors. They also allegedly threw some objects at the police officers.

The fracas occurred around 9pm when the students claimed they had caught two students red-handed in an act of sodomy while the lights were off. The students then called other students to the scene, in an attempt to assault the alleged homosexuals who had committed the ‘abominable’ act.

Inasmuch no sane human being will endorse rioting particularly amongst students, it must be said that the excesses within the police service are just too many.

How on earth should a student be shot in his skull over this fracas? Even if he chose the ‘inappropriate’ means of using a gun in such a situation, shouldn’t he have fired warning shots into the air? There can be no justification for this avoidable and irreparable mess?

Out of my anger and disappointment, I privately called a very competent and learned police officer who is an acquaintance and put this question to him; Boss, I would like to know what the law says about how the police should handle a riot especially in the case of SHS students who aren’t handling deadly weapons?

This is what he had to say; Police should not open fire in such situations. Then I asked again; what if the crowd becomes too rowdy and ignores caution by the police?

He further responded; “the reaction depends on the police officer’s capacity to defuse the tension, calm down the situation and his or her understanding of crowd behavior. This helps to de-escalate the tension and prevent loss of life”.

I then exclaimed; perfect explanation. I asked again, so obviously some of the officers are just not in tune with these experiences or they are just incompetent?

His final response was, “Many Ghanaian workers are generally incompetent. Look at the doctors, engineers, politicians and the likes. They are only interested in titles, positions, money and are greedy to the core”.

Then I became silent for a while. This is because to a large extent I agreed with his assertion. At least I know of patients who have died at the hands of incompetent or negligent doctors and nurses. I know of people who have died because of incompetent building contractors and engineers. The list goes on and on.

But as a country, for how long shall we allow avoidable extinction of the very human resource whose strengths and talents are needed to build this nation into a safe haven? I have realized over time that only very few Ghanaian workers in the ‘essential services’ category value human lives.

The doctors, the nurses, emergency workers, the police officers, soldiers etc. Elsewhere such workers are even ready to risk their lives to save the citizens.

But in Ghana, it is the opposite. I have seen nurses and doctors sometimes walk past patients in excruciating pains and even at the point of death as if they had no conscience. They only value you if you belong to the elite class.

Mr. IGP, available information suggests that you have arrested some three officers connected to this agonizing killing of an innocent child.

Although many Ghanaians are pessimistic about how far this case will go, we want to believe that this time around; perpetrators will be reprimanded enough to deter other officers.