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Opinions of Thursday, 6 April 2017

Columnist: Akram, Hafizdeen

Shun the dishonour; stop the brutality; bring back the lost integrity

BY: Hafizdeen Akram

The Ghana Police Service, for about a decade or more today (circa the year 2005), have failed to justify before the Ghanaian public, especially the people of the Upper West Region, the use of such an impressive and patriotic phrase, ‘service with integrity’ as a motto.
The basis to building integrity is discipline and obedience to the known rules, regulations, bye-laws and ethical code that govern the conduct of whoever is living within the parameters where the laws apply. Such obedience is what the police officers lack.

They’re the ones who will ride motorbikes without helmets, drink drive, speed beyond 50 kilometres per hour in town without driver’s license, aid crime, and extort ‘appreciation’ from commercial drivers in the form of small Cedi notes and allow them to go with faults on the road. Some wear tattoos and still go around town printing them on clients.
They haphazardly hold guns in town: at banks (not their duty posts) in the midst of other customers, at beer joints and along the streets. One would wonder if such irresponsible handling of the arms is usually sanctioned by the police heads in the region.
Under such a system, why won’t a low rank officer go on social media to call all natives of Wa criminals? ‘I don’t think this Wa fools will come to Wa police station and report their missing motorbikes,’ she goes on to enphasise, ‘And all the natives in town are criminals including their forefathers.’
And I wish to remind her that the Interior Minister, Hon. Ambrose Dery and the Upper West Regional Minister, Hon. Alhassan Suleman are both natives of Upper West. If she doesn’t respect the Wa Commoner but she should at least not have generalized her comment for the generalization of the comment means disrespect to everyone from Upper West including the interior minister who rules Volta Region too.
For the Ghanaian public, the police no longer have the moral justification to enforce the law. This is not to say that the legal responsibility of the police to enforce the law no longer holds. But laws are better enforced when those who are to enforce the law have high moral standing. The necessity of moral standards in the drafting and enforcement of law isn’t an issue argument.
THE ROLE OF THE POLICE
As part of the executive arm of government in charge of law enforcement, the Ghana Police Service (GPS) have over the years helped in ensuring law and order in the country. The foremost function of the service is to prevent crime and maintain law and order by making arrests, conducting investigations and assisting the courts with evidence in criminal proceedings.
Section 1 of the Police Force Act 1970 (Act 350) states thus, ‘It shall be the duties of the Police Force to prevent and detect crime, to apprehend offenders and to maintain public order and safety of persons and properties.’
Today, however, the services are rendered to Ghanaians with a doubtful integrity through dubious acts by officers who have decided to ‘throw positive reputation to the dogs.’
Take Upper West Region as a case destination, the reputation of the police is one of negativity. The revered image that used to be associated with it is missing, especially among the low rank officers who in the discharge of their day-to-day duties interact with members of the public. It’s almost same with several other regions that I have visited in the country.
Instead of maintaining law and order and ensuring safety of the citizenry and properties, the police, however, break the laws, shoot and kill the people they’re supposed protect, allow real offenders of the law to go untouched, destroy property and cause gross disorder within the public.
It’s not entirely their fault. They have superiors who are obliged by law to monitor their performance and as a result motivate or reward and punish, respectively, effective officers and those found to have committed wrongful acts. What have the police high command been doing to maintain order over the years in this regard?
THE DELIBERATE DOUBTFUL ACTS AND INACTIONS OF HIGH RANK OFFICERS
The police service heads can’t say they’re not aware of the misconduct exhibited by their subordinates. Why then do they stand aloof and watch the young ones continue to misbehave? If they claim not to be aware of these concerns raised by the public, it shows how irresponsible the leadership of the service is regarding effective supervision and enforcement of law and order within their fold, which in any case will still be an indication of falling standards in the service’s performance.
There were reports in the media on the 6th of February, 2017 about the sacking of about 206 police recruits under training. In his response to the issue as reported by ultimatefmonline, the Police PRO, Superintendent Sephas Aurthur said, ‘I cannot really give you the figure of police recruits sacked as I talk to you now, but the figure is 206 per the directive issued over the weekend and not 3,000. We warned them not to submit fake documents and that personal assessment will be subjected to scrutiny but as human beings, some people would always want to test the system.’
Does this statement therefore mean that the police don’t usually do due diligence on the academic qualifications of applicants before they’re admitted into the training school? If yes, then the police are not doing the right thing. They could usually have given enough time to the process in order to completely certify the genuineness of the personalities they recruit into the service that says it prides itself on integrity.
If no, then the human resource unit of the police must have had a weak system of checking the authenticity of the qualifications of applicants. How on earth could almost 10% of recruits under training have got in there without the necessary academic qualification? If the sacking was based on attitudinal problems, like what happened in the Shai-Hills Army training school in December, 2015, that would be understandable, but for academic qualification, it’s dubious. They could easily be checked with the respective examining bodies and confirmed as true or otherwise before the final list for training is prepared.
Police officers enlisted into the service through such improper way can only carry their criminal behaviour into service and the weak nature of supervision will give them the chance to shoot and kill natives, womanize, go on Facebook and display all sorts of information about themselves including their current duty posts – how irresponsible and unprofessional – and their superiors look on unconcerned.
Political influence in the service these days is rife thereby rendering the service dependent and ineffective. The known senior officers in the service are moved randomly by governments in an irregular and unjustified manner. Unjustified because a very good operations officer could just be transferred to a desk at the head office where the real effect of his role is missed by the general public.
Due to weak supervision, if there’s any at all, people in the Upper West Region have been crying for help for over a decade now about the influx of armed robbery and other forms of thievery in the region and yet the police high command seem not to be aware. Robbery still goes on and the members of the public don’t report suspects to the police for fear that their identity could be revealed to the suspects by the police.
THE WAY FORWARD
It’s about time the police stood up to the task of building and maintaining standards in the service performance. This will help regain public trust in them. The politicians must not always have the greatest and final say in what decisions the police make in their line of duty toward the general good of the country.
Oppose the politicians when they push you to make irrational decisions. This way the public can see your worth as an officer with integrity and not just a stooge or tool for political vendetta.
Effective supervision and stringent sanction regimes in the service by the units of the service responsible for that will help.
Remember, the difference between the police and other members of the public is the role the police are supposed to play in ensuring law and order. If the law is not respected by those that are supposed to enforce it, then the country becomes a jungle.

Now the courts are effective; the police are dull; the media blatantly lie and distort facts and politicians are not fair in their decisions. The courts can’t do it all alone. Citizens must not be treated like animals in the wild.

God bless our homeland Ghana.