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Are the police public servants or political overlords?

Tue, 14 Jun 2016 Source: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.

The May 26 police beating to death of one Mr. Osei-Tawiah, in Krofrom a suburb of Kumasi, in the Ashanti Regional Capital, ought to be thoroughly investigated and justice promptly meted out by the culprits involved (See “Kofrom: Police Happy with Autopsy Report; Warn Against Further Protests” MyJoyOnline.com 5/31/16).

According to an autopsy report allegedly released by coroners/pathologists at the Komfo Anokye Teaching Hospital (KATH), Mr. Osei-Tawiah died of “congestive heart failure.”

The Ashanti Regional Commander of the Ghana Police Service, Mr. Kofi Boakye, is reported to be claiming that the police are satisfied with the coroner’s report; and so it is not clear whether, indeed, the highest-ranking police officer in the Ashanti Region really understands the basic meaning of “congestive heart failure,” unless, of course, the Deputy Commissioner of Police is also cocksure that the massive heart attack suffered by the 22-year-old Mr. Osei-Tawiah had absolutely nothing to do with the latter’s having been considerably manhandled and allegedly Tasered by the police.

In all likelihood, even if the victim was known to be afflicted with a congenital cardiac condition, it still stands to reason to assume that prior to his violent contact with the unnamed three police officers, Mr. Osei-Tawiah had not been in dire need of emergency medical assistance and/or treatment.

Plainly put, it well appears that it was his violent contact with the three police officers and him being severely beaten and Tasered by his assailants that brought about the situation that resulted in his death.

At any rate, merely informing the public that the apparent tortured victim died of “congestive heart failure” tells us a diddly little about the minute details of the entire incident. For instance, the coroner’s report also needed to inform the public about the general bodily, or physical, condition under which the mortal remains of Mr. Osei-Tawiah was conveyed to the KATH morgue, as well as the conditions under which the autopsy was performed.

But what is even more significant are the circumstances under which the victim came to be confronted and allegedly beaten severely, tortured and Tasered by his certified law-enforcement assailants.

So far, what we know is that Mr. Osei-Tawiah was mistaken for one member among a group of suspects being pursued by the police. We are not told, for example, precisely for what reason, or reasons, the police officers were in hot pursuit of the alleged suspects one of whom they mistakenly identified to be Mr. Osei-Tawiah.

In other words, we need a thorough investigation of the matter in order to conclusively resolve the question of whether, indeed, Mr. Osei-Tawiah was accidentally picked up and tortured to death. This is what an evidently cryptic autopsy report, such as the one over which DCOP Boakye is reported to be jubilating, fails to answer.

So far, the Member of Parliament for Manhyia-North, which also includes Krofrom, Mr. Collins Owusu-Amankwah, has registered his reservations and utter dissatisfaction with the autopsy report. Mr. Owusu-Amankwah has publicly stated that he intends to see to it that the matter does not end where it is presently.

Still, it is rather curious for Mr. Owusu-Amankwah to add that he does not intend to seriously challenge the clearly compromised contents of the autopsy report. If, indeed, he is really intent on seeing to it that justice is done to the late Mr. Osei-Tawiah, his family, relatives and friends, then Mr. Owusu-Amankwah had better call for prompt and thorough investigation of the matter. For it is quite clear that something has seriously gone wrong here.

At the least, I can readily see the three police officers alleged to be directly involved in Mr. Osei-Tawiah’s beating death being charged with manslaughter and being arraigned before a legitimately constituted court of law on misdemeanor assault charges, assuming that, indeed, they had genuinely mistaken Mr. Osei-Tawiah for one of the criminal suspects they were allegedly in hot pursuit of.

Even in the event of these police officers’ being let off the hook, as it were, the fact still remains that something serious went awry with the way and manner in which the officers conducted themselves in this apparently quite delicate and sensitive situation.

In which case, it would be perfectly in order for the government to consider compensating the family of the victim for so flagrantly and egregiously suffering a violation of his human and civil rights.

Needless to say, the rather bizarre notion that, somehow, justifiably angry Krofrom residents have absolutely no right to publicly express their conniption in the quite legitimate form of massive public demonstrations is nothing short of patent absurdity.

I, however, perfectly agree with DCOP Boakye that any street demonstrations be conducted with peaceful restraint.

Columnist: Kwame Okoampa-Ahoofe, Jr., Ph.D.