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Opinions of Saturday, 19 January 2019

Columnist: Israel Vigbedor

The perceived police brutality and the social media film makers, who is right?

The writer The writer

I am traumatized about the recent increase in the public outcry on what most people refer to as ‘Police Brutality’ and our attitude towards Police Officers in the discharge of their duties. My question is; do the public really understand the operations and procedures of the police?

I will not pretend to be all knowing, but am much convinced that section of the general public do not actually know and understand the real mandate and powers of the Police Service. Section 1 (1) of the Police Service Act 350, 1970 states; “It shall be the duty of the Police Force to prevent and detect crime, to apprehend offenders, and to maintain public order and the safety of persons and properties.

I know majority of Ghanaians are good readers and have understanding of everything they read but my only surprise is why they seem not to understand this simple provision in the said Act.

Arrest procedures are very simple in a way that Ghanaians should be able to read and understand. Section 3 of (Act 30), the Criminal Procedure Code of Ghana clearly states;

“In making an arrest, the Police Officer or other person making the same shall actually touch or confine the body of the person to be arrested, unless there be a submission to the custody by a word or action”. It means that immediately the arresting officer touches or confine your body or informs you of your arrest, then it means you have been arrested.

Any attempt to resist such arrest also qualify for another offence as contained in section 226 (1) of (Act 29), the criminal code of Ghana.

Still thinking about section 226 of Act 29, I see a lot of people committing crime boldly against the state thinking they are defending their right. Do we know a person commits a misdemeanor when one endeavors to resist or prevent the execution of the law by, (a) resisting lawful arrest or the lawful arrest of any person, or (b) rescuing any other person from lawful custody? If we know, why then do we act otherwise?

The trend now is that people have now turn to be film makers and are now filming scenes of arrest that are met with resistance and sharing them on the social media for the purpose of creating sympathy for such suspects.

I cannot stop asking myself so many questions as I continue to look for these few sections in our laws. I was thinking I will come across a provision or a section in any of our laws stating that citizens are at liberty to resist arrest and attack the Police but am yet to see that.

So what is actually making us now to think we have the right to resist a lawful arrest and attack the Police and all that I see our media house doing is to launch a campaign all in the name of justice in defense of these criminal attitude?

What has happened that Ghanaians are now resisting arrest? Is it that they don’t know of these provisions in our laws? Could it be that the Police are also not following the basic and simple arrest procedures? As for these questions, I will leave it for our social activistand commentators to answer.

When you hear an arresting officer telling a suspect “you are nobody”, it sometimes tells how rubbish and rude the suspect may be. We all need to rethink about some of these things as a Nation before we end up collapsing a constitutionally mandated body like the

Police Service. Article 200 of the 1992 Constitution of Ghana is clear and it states as follows; (1) There shall be a Police Service of Ghana. (2) No person or authority shall raise any Police Service except by or under the authority of an Act of Parliament. (3) The

Police Service shall be equipped and maintained to perform its traditional role of maintaining law and order. As to whether the Police Service of our dear Country is well equipped, it is another topic to talk about another day.

It is only in Ghana that a suspect to be arrested can look in to the face of the Police Officer and tell him ‘even with your weapon, you can’t do anything’ and the next thing to do is to call his Uncle the politician to intervene. In other jurisdictions, the Police arrest the politicians themselves but in Ghana the Police can’t even arrest the house boys of politicians. Where exactly are we going as a Nation?

Just with a gentle tap by your shoulder and subsequently informing you that you are under arrest means you have been arrested. After that, any attempt by you to resist that arrest in itself is also a crime as I have already stated. So my question is; what should the Police do when one resist arrest or attempt to escape lawful arrest?

Well, I don’t think the Police should just let the suspect go as the arresting officer(s) have the strength, ability and the discretion to apply a measurable force to recapture that suspect.

The use of force for arrest, detention or recapture is another powers given to the Police that must all time be executed by anybody in authority to effect arrest under section 36 of Act 29 of the Criminal Code of Ghana. So it means the Police are sometimes right in trying to apply the necessary force in effecting arrest as stated under section 36 of Act 29 (1) that;

“A person who by law may, with or without warrant or any other legal process, arrest and detain another person: (a) may use force which is necessary for the arrest, detention, or recapture of that person and (b) may, if the arrest is made in respect of a felony, kill the other person, if the other person cannot by any means otherwise be arrested, detained, or retake. (2) Force may be used under the subsection (1) only where the other person, having notice or believing in the lawful arrest, avoids arrest by resisting or fight, or escapes or endeavours to escape from custody. Surprisingly, killing is also included in there.

If we have all these provisions in our laws, then why do we chastise the police for its actions? Yes, I admit there may be excesses.

My second question is, should this thought of others (the film makers) recording scenes sometimes intentionally created by some of these suspects be the reason why the Police should not do what they are to do? If that is so then the Police cannot move to effect any arrest for anybody because that suspect will resist by creating a scene for our ‘film makers’ to shoot and title it ‘Police brutality’. Let us all cooperate with the Police and stop resisting arrest which only create a scene and go with Police to the station where you will have all the opportunity to ask all the necessary questions and also to consult a counsel of your choice if you so desire.

Our home land Ghana is now becoming too lawless to the extent that citizens now have the powers and all the political backings to prevent a constitutionally mandated body from executing their powers enshrined in the constitution.

Some of the videos posted on the social media makes everybody think something is wrong with our Police but what we do not know is that the Police are allowed to use some measurable level of force or discretion in arresting people who commit offence or are suspected to have committed an offence with or without warrant.

This is not to say the Police Service is perfect and discharges its duties without any shortfall, never. It will be too mischievous on my part to allude to that position because, it is a human institution like many others organization. In view of this, I encourage the police to educate it citizens to understand some of these basic procedures.

It appears the individual Police Officers always suffer some amount of humiliation and punishment from the Police Administration before investigation in to the matter sometimes even start.

The Police Service must also know that modern Policing has nothing to do with the use of muscles and stop their over reliance on body and their verbal abuse on citizens in the discharge of their duty. I actually laugh loud after watching one of the recent video on social media where the Police are seen shouting at the suspect “you are nobody, you are nobody” with the show of metal lifting bodies.

I only laugh out loud. So one may ask, is it ethical for the Police to be saying all kinds of things in various languages when do their work? I can at least state with my limited understanding of the law and Police operations that, it is not ethical and professional for the Police to verbally abuse anybody in the discharge of their duties in anyway and in any place no matter how the suspect abused the Police.

In order to build a strong Ghana with a better Police Service, we as citizens also need to understand how the police operates. If all we can do as a responsible citizens is to hide ourselves filming a struggle between a suspected criminal and the Police and publish same on social media, then we have a long way to go. We must all wake up and understand the operations of the Police and support them to enforce the law.

Arresting you do not mean you are guilty of any charge. It is just for you to assist in investigations. So let all submit ourselves to arrest should the Police come to us. Resisting arrest means a lot and there the Police will be compelled to use that minimum force on you. As you may be aware, the word minimum is relative. After all why resist arrest if you have not done anything wrong?

I wish you all a Joyful Christmas and Happy new year.

God bless our home land Ghana.