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Opinions of Monday, 7 July 2008

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi, Kwaku

Who is policing the Ghana Police Service?

And, when is its Leadership going to wake up?

YOU HEAR THEM all the time. The negative stories about the Ghana Police abound: “Tons of cocaine got missing in no less a fortified place than the exhibit store of the CID Headquarters, a police officer got busted with drugs, police shot unconnected suspects; some of them minors. The IGP should be fired!” There is no end in sight. What is going on?

The impression is created that those headlines are true and indeed the reflection of the rot in the nation’s top security agency. The most disturbing effect of all these negatively publicized headlines is that the morale of a good number of dedicated officers—who are trying to do their best against every odd--- is eroded beyond repair because the reputation of the service they represent is damaged. The problem is exacerbated by the media’s often disproportional coverage of Police officers and insanity within the Police service.

Every Law enforcement agency has its “bad apples.”The bad apples are those who normally create most of the bad publicity. It happens everywhere, even in the developed countries. Unfortunately, the negative news is highlighted by the media more often than the accomplishments of the good officers. A typical example is that anytime a police officer lost his or her life in the course of duty; little or nothing is said about him or her. All we say is that “eye won adwuma”, which means,” It is part of the job”.

The drama that took place recently in the residence of the Volta Regional Minister is a typical example. How many Ghanaians were aware that the District Commander of the Ho Municipal Police Command was shot and killed on that day? Perhaps the Ghana Police itself has nothing to offer its fallen officers. I’m tempted to believe so.

It’s also known that it has taken some widows many years to get the entitlement meant for their dead husbands. Some widows who are still occupying rooms in the Police’s barracks—because they have nowhere to go--- have become the laughing stocks of their colleagues; who have forgotten that they could also lose their husbands, while in the service.

Ghana Police Service has its share of bad publicity lately. There is hardly a day without a headline about a police officer going from grace to grass and a police hero descending to zero. Unfortunately, some of the police officers engage in shady dealings to compensate their greediness. Such greedy officers and their cronies must at all cost be exposed.

But my question is: why do we have too many complaints against some of our men and women in the Police Service? I wonder whether anyone in the Police Leadership has any sleepless night over the negative image the Public has for the Police...

There are so many contributing factors which help to explain the Police’s cheesy image. The main ones are poor recruiting practices and lack of professional will by the leadership of the Ghana Police to resist attempt by politicians to dilute the Service with card- bearing party faithful who have been “forced” to enlist.

It is no longer news that some politicians forced them down the throat of the Police Service with, undedicated and low- grade persons into the black uniform. In most cases these are the ones who do most damage to the reputation of the Police.

Undoubtedly, Ghana Police Service seems to attract too many bad recruits because of poor background checks procedure, poor salary structure and back-door recruiting practices and poor general conditions of service. The leadership of the Service is so subservient to politicians, such that the District and Regional Commanders are always at the receiving end of politicians. Officers cannot take bold decisions because the impression is created that any officer who is not liked by the immediate political head of the district, municipality or the region is tagged as--”an enemy”---or a member of an opposition party. Unfortunately, Some members of the Police Administration have forgotten that their officers did not swear to serve politicians but the State of Ghana. For me, these people are the first to have done much damage to the very Service they administer.

What I find intriguing is that what will be the chorus of these party skewed police leaders if Ghanaians decided to elect to office a party different from the one in governance today. Will they change color like the chameleon? This is why it is always dangerous to politicize security agencies. We surely can’t mix kerosene with water. .

To curb back-door recruitment, bribes, poor work ethic and any other malaise, which are killing the Ghana police softly; Ghana needs an ‘independent agency’ to monitor the Police activities; at 24/7.

In the U.S every Law enforcement agency has an internal agency called,” IA”—Internal Affairs Unit. This unit works directly under the Attorney General’s Office. It is staffed with people with law enforcement background, or those who know the law. The officers are not part of the police department, but they have the power to arrest any police officer who goes against the law. Status by rank does not come in here.

The IA exclusively, does all the background checks of the new recruits. In other words, no officer will be hired without the complete back ground check, approved by the Attorney General’s office. And, any complaint, concerns and allegations raised by the public are crossed-checked and looked diligently into, by the Internal Affairs Unit; without fear or favor. . And, it does it 24/7.This effort has created much Public confidence and trust. And it has kept every Police department in U.S on its toes so as not to go against the law.

In Ghana , I am aware that the Ghana Police has a department called,’ Police Intelligence and Professional Standards Bureau’---which is supposed to police itself and act as a police complaints bureau. I wonder how many Ghanaians are aware of such department and its usefulness, or the role it plays in the Ghanaian law enforcement equation.

I salute IGP P.K. Acheampong for coming up with a vision to set up such a special department. But, we can’t expect any police department to police itself; especially, if it’s staffed with people from the same department. That’s why the above-mentioned department won’t work to its full potentials.

I also know that there is the Police Research Department. But I wonder if any serious researched material has been used for the betterment of the Police or the nation. Why can’t the police leadership task this department to figure out the causes of police deficiencies and how it can redeem itself? What a waste of human capital and a nation’s resources!

Would all that cure the Police Service of its troubles and agonies? Hell no! I’m not that naïve as to realize that there are people who are getting enough dividends from the old way of doing things. So they will do everything to resist any small change. But I think it will definitely be a step in the right direction.

For a start, the Police Administration needs to repackage itself vigorously, to fit into the positive expectations of the public. Unfortunately, much of the good work the Service men and women are doing each day is never highlighted and that is a cause for concern. I am equally aware of the wonderful work the Ghanaian Police’s Contingents are doing in Kosovo, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Darfur of Sudan, Southern Sudan and many other troubled spots of the world, but little is said about these achievements of the Police Service.

If you care to know, the Ghana Police has the largest and most efficient Police Contingent in Darfur for the past three years or so, but as usual most Ghanaians have not been told. Regrettably, all they know is that the most corrupt men and women are those who wear the black uniform. For me, irrespective of the veracity of this allegation, the few corrupt police officers are not different from other rotten apples in most of our public institutions and even among our elected ones.

Do not get me wrong, I do not endorse corruption. But, Ghana Police is a reflection of the main society, which is morally, spiritually and socially corrupted to the core. As a society, we wantonly perpetuate all the negative attributes we accuse the police of being possessed. Show me a well-trained police personnel and I will show you a well- behaved and less-corrupt Police force.

Proper training protects everyone. When Police officers are properly trained, the chance of injury to them and their suspects can be greatly reduced. Fear for their own safety from a lack of training can cause overreaction that could be very costly to the nation and the public. In Law enforcement profession there’s no situation that is totally safe, but there are situations that can get out of hand because the officer is insecure with his or her ability to control them. So to win the game every police officer needs regular training.

For the Police to live up to the public’s expectations, the government should invest in capacity building of the police officers by encouraging in –service training and providing financial aid to those who are willing to further their education. The in-service training is very crucial here. All aspects of Police methodology must be reinforced at these in-service training courses.

Other areas of importance are: weapon handling, rifle and pistol marksmanship and defensive - tactics training techniques .It’s amazing---as in pathetic--- that the Ghana Police has no standard shooting range nor does it have an annual weapon requalification requirements... There is no hands-on combative program like Martial Arts and Tactical Combat- Street Survival training within the service.

Are you therefore surprised that most of our police officers are poor in weapon handling and defensive training? Is it strange that an amateur armed robber can easily disarm or disable a police officer who is to watch over a bank? How can I put it delicately? Are the lives of Ghanaians worthless to the point of not to put the police personnel into a quality weapon -handling training; to hone its skills and defend the public and itself? Doesn’t the government have a role to play in safeguarding visitors and Ghanaians both home and abroad?

To have and maintain great standard Police personnel we need to weed out the bad apples in order to plant the edible fruit, which can yield good harvest for the nation. While we’re on the subject, we should also embark on other viable funding avenues like; vehicle registration fees, to finance the Police service. Every good thing costs money and to have an effective, good quality Police personnel, we need to spend a little bit real money, to provide it with the badly needed crime- fighting tools .

Tourism is vital part the Ghanaian economy with the potential to generate a lot of revenue and employment. And, the Police are charged with the difficult task of protecting those (the visitors) who are easily identified and careless.

As Ghana tries to embark on economic take-off and the development of its Tourism industry, it needs to focus on public safety and maintain a very world –class police force, which will be the frontline defense to protect both home and foreign would-be investors and visitors.

One of the most vital aspects of a strong tourist trade is the belief that the visitor will be safe to have a good time. Therefore, crimes against tourists can damage the destination’s reputation. .Without a strong, well-trained police personnel our dream to tap our hospitality and other service industries will remain just a”wish”--- a dream with no wings.

Who wants to visit Ghana and become the recipient of the armed robbers’ ‘vengeance’ or a victim of scams, physical assaults, rip-off by taxi drivers and pickpockets?

This is very important wake-up call, for anybody who cares to pay attention. And I wonder if anyone is listening.

Stay Tuned! I’ll be back with how the Ghanaian Police can prevent crimes against tourists and visitors.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi NJ, USA
* The author is a social commentator and the founder of Adu-Gyamfi Youth empowerment Foundation.


Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.