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The Police We think We Know


James Madison wrote, “if men were pure, no government would be necessary”. The word government here, to a larger extent, includes the Ghana Police officers. By now the intent of this article is obvious, but for the sake of clarity, I would want to state that this article intends to talk about the sudden turn of heroes to villains, the sudden brutal nature of the Ghana Police service.

Barack Obama once pointed out how our police officers put their lives on the line every single day to maintain public safety and hold accountable those who break the law. I couldn’t agree with him more, because that is exactly what they do and I believe a more general term for their function is law enforcement or peace maintenance. This service is a selfless one that deserves all the accolades and the people of Ghana will forever be grateful for police officers’ services.

Moving forward, when something that is supposed to maintain security turns to be the object of destruction, then there is a cause for alarm that needs to be attended to immediately. We have all been witnesses to the treacherous news that have been associated with the police recently. From the beating of a 14 year old boy to the beating of a woman with a child and the shooting of men suspected to be armed robbers. Just recently, a police officer wrongfully brutally assaulted a driver for parking ‘wrongly’. Most Ghanaians are questioning the roles of the Police service. If these were the police’s attempt to announce their presence in the country, then they took the wrong means to do that. I will at this point state emphatically that, it is not all police men who are believed to be out of line, but it is the actions of the individual few that has led to a daunted image of the police service.

When we have police officers abuse the rights of citizens, we erode public confidence in law enforcement and I believe we do not want to create an environment where people are afraid of their local police. Then again I ask, what are the rights and privileges a citizen has when it comes to dealing with police officers? Are citizens aware of these, if there are any? And what are the mechanisms put in place to make sure police men do not infringe on these rights?

What is the reason behind the anger, arrogance and brutal nature of some police men which leads them to take the law into their own hands and make nothing of the very people they are paid to protect? What would make a police officer try to prove his or her status through physical assault of citizens? Is it the training they receive, sleep deprivation, societal isolation or the continuous exposure to negative human element that has made them suspicious and incapable of human empathy? The very people mandated to protect us have become danger to our own rights. The onus responsibility of the use of force has been placed under the discretion of the police officer. Who then decides when or how to do what?

In a typical Ghanaian setting, unfair treatment of citizens will receive frowns, backlashes and insults from the public and the punishment of the immediate culprits without mechanisms for the future put in place. If this continues, the country will be going round and round on trivial matters while bigger problems await.

There is a larger conversation we need to have about the roles of officers and their relationship with
people and this may involve all stakeholders. Whatever that needs to be done to help salvage the image of the police must be done without any hesitation. Whatever that also needs to be done to salvage the welfare of the ordinary vulnerable Ghanaian must be done and done well! Whether it’s the changing of the 47 years old Police service act as suggested by Paul Avuyi or making first degree the minimum qualification. Vigilantism and mere physical strength should not guarantee someone the position of a police officer. Stakeholders must take drastic methods to remedy this situation and not dilly-dally around the problem because it never fades away, it only increases with time

My name is Raheem Awaafo, a citizen not spectator and I believe the masses matter. What do you also think is the way forward?
Send your comments and suggestions to raheemwyse@gmail.com

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