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Opinions of Saturday, 14 August 2004

Columnist: Agyemang, Nana

Police, Public Percerptions and the Media

Recent comments by the public in the media has prompted this write-up, to air my own ideas about how the public, police and the media must coexist harmoniously and palatably. As much as I agree that, like every human institution the Police has its fair share of the entire negative tendencies of a population, it is sad that the way and manner we (all Ghanaians) portray the police leaves a lot to be desired.

I have read in recent time, two very negative pieces on the Police. These are either a deliberate attempt by someone to just ridicule the Police or a way of showing how we disrespect the Police. My conviction stems from the backdrop that, these articles were reported in the media with the usual arrogance of writers who know all and must be listened to. As a police officer with no journalistic training I know for a fact that Journalist are obliged to be fair in their reportage, as well as taking pains to find out the view of the other side of every story, before it goes to print or aired. But I find it outrageously ludicrous the things I read.

Recently one of the local newspapers wrote twice on the payment of certain fees by recruits in police training depots. This article literally attacked the Police Commissioner in charge of human resources for asking the recruits to pay for some of their training needs. What is so wrong with this, for a reporter to beat war drums about? Why don?t we complain when people are made to pay for their training needs in other organizations? Nurses, Doctors, and many other professionals pay for their training needs and no one says a thing. University and polytechnic students pay for textbooks and other training materials, and if that is all right, why then is it not for the Police. Mind you the police Service is a regimental institution and this calls for uniformity of clothing for groundwork, physical training and the like. Am sure no one asked the recruits to pay for police accoutrements, as these are bought for the police by government. I guess if that happens then we have the right to complain. Hear what the writer said, ?Dealers in second hand cloths said 1/3 of the amount imposed by Mrs. Anim-Botwe is enough to shop for decent imported second hand cloths popularly preferred by many middle and low class Ghanaians?.

In this age of AGOA nobody in his right frame of mind should be thinking about second hand clothing for our trainee police officers. Is it because the writer perceives the trainee Policemen as lower class citizens? so thinks that they should wear ?obroni wawu? Well I don?t think so, I feel that they also deserve the best and don?t see anything wrong with recruits providing their training needs. We must refrain from being short sighted in our attacks on other people, as this exposes us to ridicule. Whoever is sponsoring these articles must really audit his thoughts and acts, as this will only go to cause disaffection for the poor recruits. In any case there are so many institutions of training out there and whoever thinks it is too much to pay must get out of the police and go get another thing to do.

My second beef is with a reporter who covered one of the police service passing out ceremonies. The reporter misquoted one of the Deputy Inspector ?General?s of Police as saying that, a certain percentage of security service personnel were infected with the H.I.V virus. Though the Police PR guys came out to correct this, it is strange that a reporter, who am sure had a copy of the D/IGP?s speech must misquote him. Was it done out of mischief, ignorance, or sheer irresponsibility? Or I guess a combination of all these.

The press as the forth estate must be very responsible and proactive in their reportage about the Police. This is because ? the pen is mightier than the sword? and any irresponsible statement from the press about the Police, goes to further erode our already low esteem as a result of negative coverage of police activities by the press amongst many other reasons.

These statements, either well intentioned or otherwise, have done all of us, (as a nation) a great disservice. The way especially, the press portray the Police, gives the public a perception of an inept, uneducated group, which has no idea what they are paid to do. Well, sorry, the Police can boast of a good number of well educated, very efficient, and committed individuals who for lack of the necessary equipment to perform are seemingly inefficient. But even so, with the little at their disposal they are doing their best to keep our society peaceful.

I daresay that what the Police need is a friendly press, who will rather direct their energies in fighting for a Policing system that is consistent with our national aspirations. The laws in Ghana regulating Police activity, apart from the section in the constitution, are all older than half of the Policemen and women in the service presently. These LI?s were enacted in the 1970?s when the SMC was in power. This is what the press must help the police to change, so that Policing in Ghana can take off properly as our constitution has brought us constitutional rule.

This is a time the Police needs the support of the press, to help reverse and correct some of the negative perceptions the public has about the police. We have reached a stage in our nationhood, where all state institutions must be protected and brought up to international standards. This, we can only do, when the press and other agencies such as the NCCE, are able to educate the public on their rights and what they can do to have a police service that they need.


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