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Opinions of Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Columnist: Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III

No Police Officer is trained to kill for the pleasure of it

Ever since the Shama shooting incidence happened, I have followed keenly the media reportages on it from Skyy Power Fm in Takoradi which broke the sad news to Joynews in Accra and other media outlets in this country and I must say that it is very unfortunate and a sad development.

The comments that have been following the reportages make the whole scenario appear as if police officers are nothing but trained assassins which is very wrong and condemnable. We need to erase this impression from the minds of the general public for the safety of both the citizenry and our police. It can result in reprisal attacks which can put all of us in awkward situations. The police and the general public are both partners in the detection of crimes, apprehensions and prosecutions of offenders and in the course of working together for safer and crime-free communities, some of these human errors in professionalism do happen.

Those of us in the police service are not islands on our own but human beings with social ties with the civilian populace and for all you know, this young man, Lawrence Joe Baidoo is probably a relative of a serving police officer somewhere. Let us say this young man is a relative to a police officer like I am assuming, you think this police officer will be happy that his relative has been killed by a colleague who is rather supposed to protect him?

No police officer is happy killing a fellow human being because we enjoy killing them for killing sake. Even in an event that you kill an armed robber, you still have a conscience to judge you even though you may be justified by police standards for pulling the trigger so the public should not be made to believe that the police are out there to kill them. We are rather risking everything to protect their lives and also to protect their properties.

I am just imagining this scenario and to juxtapose it with the media reportages so far which seem to create all the sensitivities and inflamed passions accompanying this very incident. Detective Corporal Adjei Shaibu walks from his house to the police station and gives his details to those police officers on duty at the charge office or the counter. They issued him an Ak47 rifle to go on duty and I am not sure this is his first time of going on duty with a gun as a police officer. The police corporal walk pass a lot of people but never shoots them until he meets the 17-year-old Lawrence Joe Baidoo, a final year student of G.S.T.S whom we are told was walking in a company of friends to a street jam somewhere around Shama Junction and decides to shoot them? Does it relate?

If truly this is the case, then the police officer is not such a criminally minded person who only deserves to rot in jail but also needs a thorough psychological check up to ascertain his mental balances but fortunately or unfortunately, there may be more to what meets the eye in this very particular situation and the very reasons why the media must be very circumspect in their reportages to avoid sensitivities that will turn the public against the police. Since there are survivors of this shooting incidence, I believe both the police and the media can get to the bottom of this case with due diligence. The problem with the media is the impression and the sensitivities they are creating which is making it appear that the police are doing some cover-ups to save the head of the police officer who pulled the trigger despite the fact that the police officer in question has been detained and interdicted.

In times like these, how I wish there is an independent body that investigates the infractions that occur between the police and the civilian populace but unfortunately, our laws have not made provisions for such infractions so it raises some eyebrows if the police are to investigate themselves. Any sane mind will raise rhetorical questions of fairness and neutrality but that is the law so we have to respect it somehow, anyhow and get used to it though there are avenues to address grievances in matters like this.

The Shama Junction shooting is a sad development considering the inflamed passions and the sensitivity that this case is bringing but the fact is that no police officer in Ghana or any part of the world is trained to kill innocent people as we are being made to believe as if this 17-year-old boy was a target of assassination. It calls for in-depth and thorough investigations into the circumstances which pressed this Detective Corporal so hard for him to pull trigger to terminate the life of this promising young man and under these circumstances, the public should not give the police a bad name and hang them just like some people unfairly treat dogs just because they like them.

As a young police officer, I have personally seen many police officers charged with murder, tried by courts of competent jurisdictions and found professionally guilty and negligent in discharging their duties. The lucky ones sometimes have their negligence reduced to manslaughter after judges and juries have adduced some elements of negligence in the discharges of their duties so it is not as if the police officer is not answerable to his actions particularly if it should results in a death of an innocent person as this case may be. Whereas the courts may be trying you on criminal charges of murder or causing harm, you are at the same time made to face a service enquiry to justify why you resorted to firing arm as internal measures within the police service to regulate the use of firearms. If a police officer unjustifiably resorts to the use of firearms and a life is lost, it is a matter of 'two troubles, one God'. Only God knows what police officers go through after shooting incidences.

The core objective of the police service is to protect lives and properties so the police cannot destroy precious human lives that they have sworn an oath to protect at the expense of their own lives unless there is human error in the acts of professionalism. Of course, the police are also human who are bound to do mistakes with a wrong sense of judgment though it is said that to him that much is given, much is expected. We know and admit that stakes and standards are high when it comes to how the police are expected to discharge their duties but we can also not rule out the fact that police officers are also human beings who can have a wrong sense of judgment at times when discharging their duties just like all professionals. Police all over the world have this challenge to endure with, though a life once lost cannot be replaced.

To kill the same people whom we are supposed to protect is against the very core principles of our oath and the very reasons why we are sworn police officers. It makes the police look like the bad brooding hen which consumes its own eggs before they are hatched. No sane police officer will do that unless there is a circumstance that calls for a police officer to pull the trigger to again save lives and properties but the sad thing is that as human as we are, our sense of judgment at times go wrong just like any other professionals as I have said it earlier.

Before every police officer is taught how to shoot at the training school, you are told in BOLD AND CLEAR TERMS WITHOUT ANY AMBIGUITY that you will justify why you resort to a firearm in the course of discharging your duties. You are told in clear terms that you can only resort to the use of firearms when you are being attacked by an ARMED CRIMINAL to an extent that your life is in immediate danger and the only available window of life is to shoot to save yourself and others.

In fact, I have just returned from a promotional course, where facilitators again reiterated and highlighted justifiable grounds on which a police officer can resort to the use of firearms. This time the facilitators emphasised that police officers must exercise high levels of discretionary powers when resorting to the use of firearms because we are in a democratic dispensation where human rights are upheld and the rule of law is supreme. Every life lost in the course of police duties to maintain law and order will be dully accounted for so the police officer ought to be extra careful before pulling the trigger. It is because of this that the Interior Minister was recently hauled before parliament to answer some police killings in Kumasi in the Ashanti region.

We are accountable to your lives so no police officer in his right senses would kill you and go scot free. The police is still your friend and not the one who is out there to have you killed.

My condolences to the bereaved families. It is a regrettable and irreplaceable loss but we can only help them to wipe their tears as the police investigate this unfortunate incidence. Truly, no police officer kills for the pleasure of it. I am imagining if it were to be and how I would have reacted to this sad news

Just unfortunate!