BettyBlueMenz Perspectives: The Police can be your friend too

Wed, 1 Aug 2018 Source: Betty Atiede Mensah

Back in primary school, we were taught that the police service is the law enforcement wing of the executive branch of government. That is tricky because they are supposed to be a “service”, which means they should have an orientation of serving the public; and yet their core role is law “enforcement”, which connotes the use of force. It would appear that the police often get confused as to whether they are to serve or use force to in every situation.

The Ghana Police Service (not Force) is currently under fire for assaulting Multimedia journalist, Latiff Idirisu. One would have thought they had learnt some lessons from that and would, therefore, comport themselves even in the face of extreme provocation, but no. The recent horrifying video from Midland Savings and Loans clearly indicates that no lessons have been learnt at all. In fact, the officer who mercilessly beat up the woman carrying the baby seems rather very proud of his action as the video would show. I wonder if he is still proud of himself right now, but from what we saw in the video, he did it with pride.

My first reaction after watching the video was like really?! These police personnel do not learn at all. There are allegations that there is a CCTV footage which shows the woman drew first blood by spitting on and slapping the officer. I have not seen it yet so I can’t be sure. But even if that was indeed true, the watchword for the police service is “minimum force”, and from a layman’s point of view, what I watched in the video was not anywhere near minimum force; but the courts will determine if indeed the policeman was provoked and whether his reaction was minimum force.

One would have expected that the policeman, even if provoked, could have handcuffed the woman and arrested her instead of doing what he did. The reason is simple; if the ones who are to protect us are rather doing this to us then are we really safe? Who do we run to when we are faced with such abuses?

That Friday evening, another similar video emerged of a security man pushing and dragging a woman out of a premise for what wrong she had done, only heaven knows. What amazed me while watching that video was the onlookers who were busy filming the action rather than going to offer help to the woman. That was exactly what happened at Midland as well.

I can understand that there is some apprehension on the part of civilians when a security officer appears to be enforcing the law. We often stay aloof and watch. But that takes me back to the acceptance speech of President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, particularly the famous plagiarized bit where he said we should not be spectators but citizens. So it should not matter who is doing the wrong things, we must not be spectators. We need to be citizens and be our brother’s keeper.

I expected the workers of Midland and other customers there to have looked beyond the police uniform and helped the woman – at least separated them instead of filming the incident just to get a viral video for social media. The social media craze has made some of us lose the will to help and we are even becoming more of spectators than citizens. We are more interested in what content we can feed our social media friends with instead of helping our neighbour. Ghanaians are known to be hospitable and helpful, so what happened to us? We are nowadays in a hurry to remove our phones to capture the exclusives rather than offering a helping hand.

I am told the lady who filmed the Midland incident has resigned. Indeed the victim in that video has said she is grateful to her for filming the brutality, otherwise, the policeman would have gone scot free. But what if the woman had died; what purpose would the filming have served her, apart from getting the policeman punished? If it is indeed true that the lady has resigned then it only justifies my feeling that helping would have been better than filming the incident. The worse could have happened.

As for the man and the woman who were watching the policeman beat the woman the least said about them the better. Women are supposed to be compassionate, but the female staff of Midland showed zero compassion towards their fellow woman in distress. They rather blamed her for not leaving.

The question I want to ask is, would the woman have been beaten like that if she came to the bank riding a luxury car, spotting some designer wear and radiating some expensive perfume? The manner in which some institutions discriminate in this country is really nauseating. The rich are given VIP treatment but the poor are treated like trash.

In a BettyBlueMenz Perspective, I believe the police should focus more on the service rather than the force aspect of their work. They need to wake up to the need to be helpful rather than this penchant for intimidating people with their uniform and their weapons.

I know not all policemen are abusive; there are good ones among them. It is high time the professionalism our police service boast of on paper, is reflected in their daily conducts on the streets, at banks, offices, courts and wherever the police go to service.

I believe all is not lost. I am confident that if the police want to be our friends they can be. So even though I don’t yet have much to support the assertion that the police can also be our friend, I still hold on to the faith that the police can be our friend too, so let us not crucify them completely.

God bless Ghana Police Service, God bless Ghana

I rest my case here…

Columnist: Betty Atiede Mensah