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Opinions of Thursday, 27 July 2017

Columnist: Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi

The gunning down of police officers is a teachable moment

The slain officers were The slain officers were

A regular in–service training program and strictly adhering to the departmental procedures can avoid in-the-line-of-duty deaths of police officers.

Over two decades ago, two agents from the FBI conducted an in-depth study of cop killers in custody. They were attempting to discover why some officers were killed in certain situations, why the crooks acted as they did, and how other police officers might benefit from the information they will obtain from the study.

The findings from the study suggested that the slain officers made many tactical errors that gave their killers the opportunities they were waiting for: such as not approaching them tactically, failing to take control of the situation with command presence, failing to get more ‘Cover officers’, searching poorly, failing to wear body armor and not strictly following departmental procedures.

In other words, the slain officers were ‘laid-back’ types and easy-going with the tendency to use less force than average officers in similar circumstances, to achieve their law enforcement objectives.

Yes, it’s a fact that the Ghana police officers are part of the endangered spices in the country in recent time. This new phenomenon can partly be attributed to the lack of crime fighting tools and body protective gears. But, the major reason for this slaughtering is the lack of regular, rigid and robust in–service training program for all police personnel, regardless of the ranks.

The fact of the matter is that career stagnancy, whether imposed by ourselves or our administrators can be dangerous to our health and lives. Failing to challenge ourselves can result in the loss of enthusiasm for our duties, and may lead to some ethical impropriety. It’s a fate that is befalling some of our police officers. I have seen officers who were great handling weapons and hot stuff when they came out from the Police Depot or Academy. But give them a robbery or shots fired call and watch them rock and roll. Once we’re off training Depot, we tend to dodge the unfamiliar and become so complacent in our duties.

In the United States of America, at least in every six months, every law enforcement officer is required by the law to go for intensive in-service training program to learn (weapons handling, shooting, defensive and speed hand-cuffing tactics, tactical cover procedures, the use of personal intuition to accomplish your police duties, etc). Officers are not only taught how to use firearms but how to dismantle, clean, and reassemble each firearm they’re authorised to use while on duty. Failure to accomplish a passing grade repeatedly from this programme can be the grounds for your dismissal. It’s a little harsh but oh, well… that is the law from the Attorney General’s office!

In Ghana things are different. How many officers out there on our streets immerse themselves in something new (that they have little or no knowledge of) in their duties every month? Let’s be honest, most police officers become entirely one dimensional after coming out of Police Depot. When I see them guarding banks with their weapons on the side while playing with their cell phones or reading a newspaper, it makes me wonder if they really know what they’re doing, or the consequence of their actions or inactions.

How many police officers out there can honestly say that she or he has never encountered a situation in the field where the options, answers, or solutions weren’t crystal clear? And, how does a police officer find ways of challenging him or herself? The answer is constant reading, honing of the law enforcement skills you acquired from the training academy or immersing yourself in the police procedures.

Becoming a ‘better police officer’ may not ensure formal recognition such as promotion, but it will virtually guarantee its informality. It will simultaneously help you do your job faster and increase your prospects to survive in the course of your duties and beyond.

A better officer doesn’t only need to know all the techniques of problem-solving policing(POP) and think outside the usual boundaries to accomplish his law enforcement objectives but, to have a total control of the suspect, environment and able to write good ‘Reports'.

I’m not trying to make sweeping generalisations like: “If only they had followed procedures they might be alive today”, because every situation is different, and each police officer will react to how she or he perceives the situation. What might not be a big deal to you might cause another officer to get on the radio and ask for immediate backup. And, what one officer might use a force option, another officer would not even consider.

The bottom line is the study also mentioned that the officers who go out of their way to make the arrest process more comfortable for the crooks(eg; avoiding the crotch area during a search was mentioned as a reason so many crooks were able to hide their weapons until they could use them to kill)

This is not to say, of course, that you can use your good officer safety as your excuse for being rude to every contact. But in this era of community–oriented policing and problem–oriented policing(POP), let’s not forget that some people see a police officer being “too nice to them” as an invitation to take control, attack, or ambush the officer who has traded his ‘good police sense’ for a desire not to “inconvenience” the suspect.

Since you’re in behaviour control business, it follows that there are those people who will wait for their chance to hurt or kill you if they feel you have given them the physical or psychological opportunity.

In short, you have to learn how to take control of the psychological and physical parts of your suspects so that if things escalate you are already in a ‘tactical position’ and can fight back.

By the way, in this day and age when organised criminals and gang members are targeting police officers left and right, why do our police officers show off their uniforms, even when they’re off-duty? Yes, be proud of who you’re and what you do on duty and off. But, please wear your police uniform on duty and make the change to an “average citizen”, when you go off duty.

In other words, dress up or down when you need to fit in. Start focusing on how you can blend in with the situation and strive not to call attention to your private self in public situations because things are getting really nasty. I know it makes you feel good and powerful by walking around with your uniform even when you’re off-duty, but you have to know what time it is in Ghana if you want a long life.

Please don’t give your options away and lose your tactical advantage. Why? Because you want to stay safe as you approach and handle an unknown situation where the bad guy may know more about it than you.