Feature Article of Saturday, 30 July 2011

Columnist: Poku-Gyimah, A.

The Ghanaian Police and Democratic Policing

July 29, 2011

Mr. President and Fellow Ghanaians: The Ghanaian Police and Democratic Policing

Mr. President, Current events in our land have prompted me to write quickly to brief you on the basic nature and practices of contemporary democratic policing. After you have finished learning the content of this writing, you will understand why and how democratic policing differs from ‘Rawlings’ dictatorship community policing’. Then, you will understand the need to devise democratic methods of training the police and provide necessary logistics and equipment to promote the required democratic policing the police are required to offer to the republic. I have noticed the efforts your administration is making to train and equip the police, particularly the 1.9 million dollars earmarked for the project under the watch of our Vice President. We would not like to waste this funding and this is why I have decided to bring in my help. You will understand the need for us to arrest some police officers, soldiers, as well as civilians who have committed all sorts of crimes from the time we can recollect our memories.

Sir Robert Peel generally described as the founder of modern policing developed nine principles on which the institution operates. His seventh principle critically talked about police-community relationship. He explained this principle that the police are the public and the public are the police. Elaborated further, it meant that the police are paid by the public to provide full-time service to the public in the interest of community welfare and existence.

Mr. President, Sir Robert Peel’s noble institution which begun in the United Kingdom has developed over the centuries from the 1829 to now. Policing has gone through several stages. The three main models or phases currently in use are traditional policing, professional policing and community policing. These three models of policing added together constitute what is known as Democratic Policing. A nation with Democratic Policing is a police state. In a police state, no one is above the law. Police training and experience make them more professional than they used to be under the days when traditional policing alone was in practice. These three phases are used simultaneously to foster development of policing – protecting lives and property, arresting offenders for prosecution, and providing other services to the community. Police execute their duties by employing police practices and procedures. Police practices and procedures are derived from the Constitution, case laws, statues, ordinances, by-laws, applicable international laws, and police department policies. In fact, in a country like ours, where chieftain is the mainstay of our cultures and traditions, customary laws are obviously symbolic features of police practices and procedures. Thus, in democratic nation-states, decrees, martial laws, military laws are not binding on the civilian citizenry. These types of laws are illegal and are associated with unlawful regimes such as the Jerry John Rawlings’ so-called PNDC regime. A nation in transition from dictatorship to democratic rule must eliminate all of its dictatorship decrees and put in place constitutional laws, statutes, ordinances, by-laws, customary laws and train law enforcement officers on how to use these laws in the discharge of their daily duties. You will understand this principle well by the time I complete explaining the three phases of modern community policing.

Traditional policing (TP) is reactive policing. In developed societies, traditional policing can trace its history to the 1930s and prior. Police patrolled the streets during their shift and reacted to what crimes and/or infractions were being committed. Of course, they also responded to dispatch calls of crimes in progress. In many times, police sat down in the charge office until victims had gone to the station to report crimes/or lodged complaints before police were dispatched to the crime scene to solve the problem. Consequently, crime prevention was achieved through mere police presence. Negative interaction between the community and police was generally a common feature of this kind of policing. In our homeland and all African countries, police practiced traditional policing in a cruel and notorious manner. Some policemen could not read and write at all. They were mainly dispatched to crime scenes to arrest and escort suspects to their stations for interrogation by the more educated police offices at the stations. During this era, police “investigated” cases by mercilessly beating suspects to force them to answer police in a way that suited the police; in a, say that you did it, otherwise I will continue to beat you, way. In both developed and developing countries, police patrol was mainly conducted on foot because vehicles were scanty. Radios were scanty too because they were expensive to buy enough for every policeman to have one.

At the beginning of the 1980s, a new form of policing - Community Policing (CP) emerged and operated in several parts of the developed societies, including the State of California, and by the middle of the 1990s, every community in the United States had embraced Community Policing. When we compare Traditional Policing to Community Policing, Community Policing is much more proactive in nature than Traditional Policing. Police are typically assigned to specific geographic areas called “Beat” in their jurisdictions and they establish ties with the various community groups. These groups may include ministerial (church) associations, neighborhood associations, youth groups, schools, hospitals, hotels, market centers, parks and gardens, etc. The idea is that when police are involved with the community they are not viewed as outsiders who are there simply to enforce the law but a part of the community. Crime prevention is achieved through positive interaction with police and the community. They do this by employing several strategies, which I am unable to explain here due to time constrains, but I can only mention that communication strengthens Community Policing. Communication entails all kinds of communication and importantly police dress code and how neat their vehicles and bicycles are.

So what is Professional Policing? When we talk about Professional Policing (PP), we are talking about providing the police with logistics and equipment; training them on how and when to use this training effectively on the field. Encouraging police personnel to continue their education whilst in the service and providing learning incentives are major keys in professional policing. Developing the police on their mental and physical capabilities constitute an integral part of training as well. This is called physical training (PT). Furthermore, because police skills are perishable, government enforces professional development activities on every police officer periodically to ensure retention of said skills. For the purposes of DP, I will brief to you later on how peace officers are recruited and trained because I think it is necessary for our police to adopt the Western methods of peace officer recruitment and training.

Hence, TP + CP + PP =DP

The equation is simply explained as the following: certain portions of TP is still valid and serviceable; therefore, take the unwanted portions of TP away and add the needed parts to CP and PP to arrive at DP. Some of the unwanted portions of TP include beating, threatening, humiliating, molesting, frustrating suspects, victims, witnesses and the general public. Police must avoid street justice and station officers should keep few police officers in the Charge Office and send the majority of their men and women on patrol mission; strictly adhere to the core values/ethics of police service, include all of CP and PP and the outcome is DP.

Rawlings Dictatorship Community Policing (RDCP) is a different form of policing that was unheard of in the history of policing until the Scottish, Jerry John Rawlings, introduced it in our country on December 31st, 1981. It is therefore beyond my explanation but I will try to explain it. Under this type of policing, soldiers were unlawfully integrated into the Police Service although they were not licensed police personnel. They still wore military uniform and stayed in the military barracks. These soldiers controlled daily police duties and their conducts were absolutely crime in nature. Soldiers were seen in cities, towns, and villages all across the country who was taking the role of the Police. Their principal duties were seizing individual civilians’ properties, as well as imported goods at the harbor and in the markets. They used private vehicles seized from civilians as their own vehicles until the petrol in the vehicles was exhausted. Then they would dump the vehicle when the patrol was finished. If the individual failed to give them their vehicles, there were consequent options such as publicly maltreating the individual, murdering the individual, or if the individual was a lady, she could be raped by them. Soldiers were seen everywhere with AK 47 riffles. It was a period of disturbances and general lawlessness in the history of Ghana. The soldiers also enforced curfew.

These soldiers with their leader together were illiterates. The regular police were afraid of the soldiers and could not freely exercise their duties as peace officers. Many times, the unjust police would join with the soldiers in these activities openly. Apparently, supervision was very poorly conducted or nonexistent. The Police Striking Force Unit served as a court for those people whose goods were seized by the police. The police determined how much the owners of the goods had to pay in retribution before the goods could be released back to them. Additionally, the Militia, People’s Defense Committees and Workers’ Defense Committees joined in the unlawful police agents. Any able bodied citizens who wanted to make money through “foul means” needed to align themselves with the so-called government of the Provisional National Defense Council. Just as an example, students who wanted could work with the government during long vacations and were sent to petrol stations to monitor the sale of petrol and they collected bribes to enrich themselves. Again, university graduates were forced to attend a three-month military training primarily to train them to enforce the law at wherever they may be employed as National Service workers. Due to the Rawlings’ effeminate nature, he imposed curfew on Ghanaians to facilitate policing activities so that he could not be overthrown; and violators of the curfew were either murdered or treacherously beaten until day break. Accountability, probity and transparency were only heard of but were never used against the soldiers who violated the laws. The preacher of the ideology of accountability, probity, and transparency, who himself was/is the nation’s Chief Director of Public and Private Executions never practiced his own ideology against his soldiers and himself unless he wanted to make a soldier an escape goat. Abductions and kidnappings were common practices and the engineers of those “evil practices” were never held accountable, even though We Ghanaians are persistently being disturbed with accountability, probity, and transparency by the lifelong Chief Director of Public and Private Executions.

Based on the foregoing, it is clear that Community Policing was introduced in the West at about the same time with the development of Rawlings Dictatorship Community Policing which started in the Republic of Ghana to prevent Ghanaian Police from learning and following international standards of policing. Democratic policing is based on Constitution, case laws, statues, ordinances, by-laws, customary laws, applicable international laws, and police department policies. Rawlings Dictatorship Community Policing on the other hand was based on decrees, martial laws, military laws, and power. Thus, while the West was gaining experience in democratic policing, the Scottish kept Ghanaians backward in community policing. Not surprisingly, today Ghanaian police officers are unable to practice democratic policing. But all is not lost, however. With unity, we shall overcome the setbacks in policing our society.

When I come back we should be looking at Ghanaian police practices and procedures region by region and see what the police did wrong. If we can correct them, we should not relent to make such corrections and hold those accountable for their mistakes. We will as well bring forth civilians and soldiers who have to be brought to book for violations of the law. In other words, I will begin performing my role of the A.Poku-Gyimah Peace Plan (APGPP). I hope you will address this communication to our IGP.

Mr. President, thank you for your time to review this communication and hope you have a nice day. Bye-bye!

Mr. A. Poku-Gyimah