By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor
December 11, 2009
The IGP’s lamentation brings into a sharp focus the need for the government to take long-lasting measures to put the Police Service and the other security institutions on an even keel. At a time that we seek to strengthen our democracy, the very institutions that constitute its pillars shouldn’t be left in the lurch. They must be retooled and rejuvenated to perform efficiently. It is only then that we can make the much-needed progress in all departments of national life.
One short-term measure to safeguard the viability of the Police Service is to allocate more funds and resources (logistics) to it. It is reprehensible for the personnel to be denied decent accommodation and logistics. Any visitor to Cape Coast who sees the structures being put up to house the police should be angered by the brazen manner in which public funds have been wasted on that project. All the IGPs before Mr. Quaye knew of that problem, made an ugly noise that it would be revived to completion, but left office without actualizing their intentions. The police suffer other deprivations. It is, especially, unacceptable for the police to lack stationery, as has been the case when relatives of suspects are asked in some instances to provide sheets of paper before statements are taken from them. Other weird demands are made as a result of this logistic problem. We cannot continue to push the police into national assignments under this condition. They deserve better to be able to serve the country productively. The government must reconsider the conditions of service for the personnel and work out better ones for them so that they will not only be assured of a secure retirement life but also that they will be motivated to enhance productivity. Another important measure to consider is DECENTRALIZATION. The government must, in the long run, explore all possibilities to decentralize the police system to allow for distinctions to be drawn between the Police Service at the national, regional, metropolitan/municipal/district levels, and the very local (unit) levels. The time has come for us to make maximum use of the Police Service to adequately serve the state and its people. A decentralized Police Service will ensure that local-level political administrations take charge of the functions of the police in terms of funding and logistic support.
In that sense, the local police establishment will function within the ambit of the particular political level to which it is assigned. The local administration will, then, have to look for means to generate funds to support the operations of the police personnel. Logistic support for the police will be complemented by the national budget as well as the local government’s own resources. For instance, the Common Fund that is allocated to the Assemblies can be spread to cover the activities of the local police establishment. After all, we already have decentralised departments working at the Metropolitan/Municipal/District levels. Creating room for the Police Service too will be a good step to take. When we talk about decentralization under the local government system, it should be an all-out affair, not a piecemeal issue.
Again, instituting taxes or levies for the upkeep of the decentralized Police Service should be possible, provided the Assemblies and the performance of the police personnel can justify such taxes. In other cases, the Police Service must generate funds through the normal policing functions. It means redefining their operations to ensure that they cover all departments of human life that our legal code encompasses.
The police should enforce traffic regulations in a more vigorous manner so that culprits are dealt with through fines, part of which should be allocated to the Police Service. What I am suggesting is that the Police Service should be rewarded with a percentage of all the revenue that is generated through the efforts of the police personnel. Thus, if the police arrest and successfully prosecute law breakers, the courts should give a percentage of the fines to be imposed on those culprits to the Police Service.
There are many other means to help the Police Service generate funds that modern-day policing implies. In advanced countries, the police work in direct collaboration with the local authorities and are eager to do so because of the fallouts for their institution. This extra revenue being generated can serve useful purposes and enable the Police Service to support its operations without looking up to the government for funding in all its entirety.
Police presence can be felt in better ways than what we have today. When the public know that they have an investment in the workings of the Police Service and that the police personnel are performing their legitimate functions professionally, they will collaborate with the authorities in sustaining the system. Otherwise, the Police Service will continue to lag behind in the performance of its functions.
The Service’s own code of conduct must be strictly enforced and errant personnel not only dismissed from the Service but prosecuted and punished to serve as a deterrent to would-be deviants. For far too long, the Police Service has remained an anathema to the public for several reasons, especially the criminal acts of some of the personnel and the hostility toward the very people they are trained and paid to protect.
It was to maintain this public-friendly posture of the Police institution that the word “Service” was vigorously fought for in contradistinction to the Acheampong government’s use of “Force” (Ghana Police Force). Acheampong wanted to support the Police logistically by equipping the Armoured Personnel Squadron with Mowacs and other equipment, which angered the military. The general suspicion was that Acheampong feared that the military might use such logistics to oust him from power; thus, giving the Police that position of strength would cripple the military. It didn’t save him. The Police institution has reserved the “Service” part of its public image and must be helped to achieve that objective of public-friendliness as happens in other democratic systems where the people quickly rush to the police for assistance instead of shunning them for fear of being roped into the network of corruption and exploited. Those who know how “an informant” or “a victim” can easily become an “accused” in the workings of the Ghana Police Service will understand the enormity of the problem that the police face in cultivating any productive and long-lasting relationship with the public.
Any measure to solve the problem of indiscipline in the Service must come from within. The Police Administration must revitalize all internal mechanisms to instill discipline in the personnel. It must begin with the procedures for recruiting personnel, which must be properly streamlined to help the Service get the requisite caliber of recruits, not based on ethnicity, nepotism, personal considerations for relatives of girlfriends, family members, or close associates. The Service must outgrow such negative influences and look for only those who are academically and physically qualified as well as those who have the intrinsic motivation to do policing as a career. The Police Service must not position itself as an avenue for school drop-outs and deviants seeking to abuse their calling for personal gains.
Again, laid-down procedures for promotion or demotion must be clearly defined and enforced to eliminate name-calling and the undermining of the esprit de corps. It means that the IGP and his team must not confine themselves to the Police Headquarters but make themselves visible and accessible to provide the camaraderie that personnel need to function efficiently. More often than not, the personnel feel left out of the dynamics and become nonentities, which creates personal problems and lowers morale. We all know the impact of low morale on people in the security services. Dangerous!
All negative acts of favouritism and the whom-you-know syndrome must be eradicated to ensure equity for all personnel. The dynamics of policing demand that no one be left out of the equation. Senior Police Officers must stop befriending the female junior officers, which is a major prerequisite for the maintenance of high standards of morality on which a successful security establishment should be based, in the first place. They should also stop turning their subordinates into errand boys!
Transfers must not be treated as punitive measures. The best thing to do is to ensure that personnel do not overstay at post. After every five years, at most, one should be moved to another station, regardless of one’s rank. This consistent and well-coordinated plan of action on transfers should prevent the tendency for some personnel to see themselves as “untouchables” and tin-gods in the locations they work in. After all, their own common saying is that “policeman no fear transfer!”
All internal structures for supervising the conduct of the personnel should be streamlined and supported to function properly. Under Rawlings, the Special Police Command (SPC) was created to monitor the activities of the personnel to expose the deviant ones to be dealt with. The Kufuor government also established another internal monitoring mechanism that must be encouraged to perform its legitimate functions. This watchman-watching-the-watchman role may have its negative aspects but it could be usefully used. After all, the personnel of the Criminal Investigation Department have largely failed to focus attention on their own counterparts; so, an overt mechanism should take up that responsibility. When we have the Police establishment itself taking decisive actions to stamp out vices, the public will be more than willing to sacrifice resources to support it. Some goodwill has to be clawed back.
The government must think outside the box and come out with workable measures to give the Service the fillip it needs. The routine measures that the Ministry of the Interior takes appear to be ineffectual. The Service needs a better approach than this patronizing by the so-called people and bodies that are entrusted with supervisory or oversight role over the Service. The spur-of-the-moment or knee-jerk measures are outmoded and must be thrown out of the equation for better ones to be devised and used tenaciously.
Funding is the major problem and the government must consider creating Special Funds for the sole purpose of supporting the Security Services. We have the District Assemblies Common Fund and a similar initiative for the Security Services will be laudable. Instead of wasting public funds on a so-called MPs Fund, doing so for the police and the other institutions will be better. We need the services that the security institutions and agents provide. Our MPs are lazy and abysmally inefficient and shouldn’t be pampered at all. Let us spend the country’s money where it matters most.