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Opinions of Tuesday, 24 August 2004

Columnist: Agyemang, Nana

Letter TO THE President -J. A Fukuor

POLICE MATTERS

I read with interest your erroneous conclusion about the authorship of the article you referred to in (the footnote) your last article ?Letter from The President: Okro mouth Binbag?. Honestly I would have been on cloud seven, with joy if the Police Administration had written that article, as this would have told the whole world and particularly, you, that, you do not have to open your mouth wide if you know next to nothing about the subject you write on. But I am sure as usual, the Police Administration did the wise thing and treated your ill researched article with the contempt it rightly deserved. Frankly thinking about it, I guess I will henceforth call myself the unofficial mouthpiece for the Police. I must however confess that you have earned my respect for at least being ?humble? enough to apologize for the language you used.

If you had been discerning enough in reading my rejoinder to your article, you would have at least found my email address and a signature on the copy I sent to your email address. This would have definitely told you that, the Police Administration had no hand in the writing and posting of the rejoinder. I have since done another article that was aimed at the likes of you ?Police, Public Percerptions and the Media?. Yes, as I have said in my articles, I am a serving police officer who finds it disgusting when people say things about the police that, they do not have much idea about. You see, most of the people who write and say derogatory things about the Police, are very ignorant about policing as a concept or being mischievous, and therefore do always miss the point. They are the people I call ?non-functional literates? or ?functional illiterates?.

Let me school you a little about what policing is all about, so that you may recognize the import of the rejoinder, and maybe reconsider your thoughts about the Police. First, Policing can in its simplistic form be defined as,? protection of the people by the people, paid for by the people? What this means is that Policing as a concept, is initiated by the People. So we may ask, who are the people? Of course the people refer to all of us as a Nation. Also, police officers are members of the people hence ?by the people?. Then, who pays for policing the people? This is also by the people. So in essence Policing is a public welfare issue, which every citizen is obliged by the principles of good citizenry, to maintain and protect.

But what do we see in reality? Every citizen thinks that Policing of the nation is to be done by a group of persons (perceived by most as an alien force) who must know all and must act above board called the Police. What we fail to recognize is that, Police Officers are like all citizens in the Nation and they are our own kith and kin. If the Nation is indiscipline then the police officer, who is also a member of the Nation will also be indiscipline. The same goes for a corrupt Nation, every person will be corrupt and not only the Police Officer.

We live in our neighborhoods with the criminals in our society. The armed robbers, who are terrorizing all of us including Police Officers, are our own brothers, sisters, wives, husbands and what have you? But do we report them to the Police? If we all act as bad citizens then, the Police will be seen in bad light, as not being able to solve crimes. Whereas if we all live up to our civic responsibilities as good citizens and report the bad guys, then we may see the Police as an efficient force. Policing thrives on information, and it is our responsibility as a people to provide this information, to make our protection by the police worthwhile. I was reading somewhere recently, where a shopkeeper recognized a wanted person and alerted the Police to arrest the person. This is the kind of good citizenship I am talking about. This is the kind of citizen Ghana needs to rid itself of anti-social behavior and crime.

It is true that the Police service like most state organs is in dire need of reinvention sooner than later, but I dare ask how do we do this? Who should initiate this reinvention? My rejoinder was explicit on who should do this. Yes the Police has no say when the ? people? want it to change, after all the people are the employers and at the same time the customer of the Police. In modern business sense it is your employer and customers who direct your activity as a business, and the same applies to the Police. The Police cannot resist change when our employers and our customers decide they want change, especially when they are both the same person. It is my conviction that, this change must be initiated by the likes of you who will lobby your Parliamentarians (who are the law makers) to produce the necessary laws to make this change happen. Then, afterwards it will be each and everyone?s responsibility to maintain and protect that change.

To maintain, means making enough resources available for our policing, we must be prepared to invest in our protection because security is expensive. I daresay that most of us are happy to fork out money to get private protection but we are so reluctant when we have to pay to get resources for the police. Elsewhere vehicle and other equipment donations are made to police, by motor dealers, corporate bodies and individuals to enhance their mobility. Local industries provide substantially to keep the police going because they realize that without such the police will not be functional. I wish we could say the same for our Nation. If you care to know the welfare of our Police Officers must also be the concern to us. You don?t expect them to live in squalor and expect genius grade work. Lets be practical it will not be possible. At the moment a Senior Police Officer (can be compared to a senior staff in most organization) is only given a car loan of five million cedis. What can that do on our car market? But that is the reality. So if the officer parasites on his official vehicle to send his kids to school, no one must cry.

The Ghanaian Policemen and women sure want a change, they need this change more than the public and the likes of you are calling for. A visit to any of the police barracks will tell you just that. But the point people are missing is that, the police do not and have the means of effecting this change. The police have a budget that is determined by Politicians who are not well versed in how a security institution is run. So how do we make changes when there are no resources available? Let me digress a bit to explain the point well. A few years back the Government procured some 100 Land Rover vehicles for the Police, and after a while they all broke down. Up till now most of these are sitting down without the necessary spares to get them back on the road. This is because as at the time of their procurement no arrangements were made for their spares and maintenance. Now we have these Peugeot Vehicles and I wonder if any plans are in place for the sustained maintenance of these vehicles and their subsequent replacement.

The Police though is a non-income generating institution we do provide a big chunk of the national cake. We can talk about all the fines the courts generate. Apart from this, we contribute so much in unquantified terms with the services we provide, don?t let also forget about the proceeds to government from the UN peacekeeping operations we undertake. Presently there are about 100 officers on peacekeeping duties around the world and they will provide to government, a total of $1.2m for their one-year duty tour. Why cant we make a provision out of this to sustain our police or even set aside a portion of our GDP for this purpose.

Yes the attitude of the Police may not be to your liking, fine, but I wonder where you think the police officers come from. They don?t look like aliens to me neither do they look foreign to me. The point you are missing is that they are part of the general population and their attitude mirrors the attitude of the general public. They are as undisciplined as our population. You can do your own survey on the attitude of the entire population and I will be pleased to read your findings. We must not look at the police officer as someone who is so different from us. We must discard our colonial mentality of the police and create a new, friendly relationship. Of course it has to start from somewhere and the ball is in your court. Let me remind you that through the UN peace keeping system a large number of officers have interacted with police officers from a large number of countries and have exchanged ideas on policing, hence our attitude I know is very professional and up to international standards. We have proved ourselves wherever we have served in the world, and our professionalism is known internationally where all the necessary resources have been at our disposal. Of course there is a Mensah in every house so I don?t expect all of us to be same. (Please spare us the insults.)

To protect means that, we need to safe guard the laws we have made. We must as a matter of fact know what we have tasked our officers to do, so that we may be able to bring their incompetence?s into fore. I hate to compare but I am forced to, In the UK for example after any major Police blunder there is an independent investigation by Her Majesty?s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) and as a rule their recommendations are implemented. In our case we do have Presidential Commissions but what happens to their so-called white papers. We have more than a couple of them still waiting for implementation, The Archer Report is still there on the shelf. These reports are either so politically tainted or are as biased as the one from the stadium disaster, that they mostly do not reflect the realities on the ground. I will however be very happy to see some of these recommendations implemented. This is how a police unit grows, as it improves on its operations and takes on board new ideas.

In our case, we are still using the old ethics left to us by the British, because mostly our statutes have not been changed to reflect modern and contemporary policing standards. It is our collective responsibility as Ghanaians to make sure of this reengineering and reinvention if we ever aspire to reach the policing concepts you espouse. Good citizenship is also another attribute for the protection of the image of our police.

If we think we have a police service, so they can do everything in crime fighting without the necessary information coming from the public, then sorry, as this will not be possible. We are neither magicians nor sorcerers to be able to solve crimes without information, mind you, we are known to be so much under resourced. We have to also adhere to the laws of our land and not expect that a very indiscipline people will be well policed by an ill equipped police. In the nutshell it is only a well equipped and motivated police which will be able to police us to your standards, and even then on a very disciplined population which is willing to cooperate with the police and committed to its civic responsibilities as opposed our trademark of lynching of suspects and attacks on the police and their stations.

Another point I would like to draw your attention to, is that statistic or survey you are alluding to. The Police Service to the best of my knowledge produces crime statistics, which is not a secret, it is there for public consumption, as each and every citizen can obtain and peruse. I am sure from these you will convince yourself of the good work being done by police, even if they do not match up to your high standards.

Let us give credit where it is due, the Ghana Police service deserves a pat on its back for the selfless service it is doing for Ghanaians. Even though we live and work under deplorable conditions are ill equipped, understaffed, woefully compensated, not respected and frown upon by society, we are doing a marvelous job under the circumstances. I wonder if you have thought of the anarchy that will befall this nation if the police decides to lay down their tools for only 24 hours?

Finally I think as a Nation we need to discard our notion and mentality of ineptness on the part of the police and think about evolving a police system, which is modern and will serve our purpose. I do not wish that you agree with me on all the issues I have raised but will be glad if people like you will do a proper assessment of our internal security needs and compare these to the statutes in place for policing in Ghana. This I am sure will give you a change of heart and get you on board for the struggle for a new system of policing which has the people of Ghana at its core but not one handed to us by a people who did not understand our psyche and traditions as a Nation.


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