Ghana police: An opportunity to retool, trigger reform
Recently, the Ghana Police Service (GPS) has been in the news for (mostly) all the bad reasons. Kidnappings, armed robbery, fraud, and murder have been dominating the news media.
Most of these recent cases seem to be exhibiting the features of older cases; in terms of the police's inability to provide adequate evidence to ensure the proper prosecution of these cases.
The murders of MP for Abuakwa South, JB Dankwah-Adu and Adams Mahama, who was the Chairman of the NPP in the Upper East Region comes to mind.
It has been years without a conclusion to these cases, largely because of inadequate evidence.
This slow walk by the prosecutorial authorities only heighten the fear of citizens and emboldens criminals.
Is it that the police service is incompetent? Or crucial external factors are causing the service to be inept.
Upon extensive pondering, three reasons why the GPS is at its present state come up: recruitment, resources and political influence.
In 2015 the GPS was hit with a recruitment scam. After investigations, COP Patrick Timbilla was indicted as playing a cardinal role in the scam.
Information widely known but not admitted publicly indicates that cadres of political parties are employed into the service not on merit but on patronage.
These procedures clearly do not give attention to the psychological emotional and educational state of the recruits.
That is why a policeman can beat a customer of a financial institution mercilessly while throwing caution to the wind. The killings of seven young men at Manso-Nkwanta portray a professionally decadent force.
In the 2018 state of the nation address president Akufo-Addo was emphatic, “an initial amount of GH¢800 million is being made available to procure and supply, within the next six months, critical, modern policing equipment and gadgets to enhance the capacity of the police to enforce law and order..."
To a large extent, the promise has remained so -- a promise!
The helicopters and drones are relevant to ensure effective policing. But what is the point if a police officer is able to reach a crime scene and is not able to gather, analyse and interpret the information at the scene properly.
Recent and not so recent cases have shown that forensic laboratories are essential if not quintessential in resolving criminal cases.
Because of the ability of a forensic report to connect or disassociate suspects from cases as a result of DNA and fingerprint findings, this can ensure the effective resolution of criminal cases.
The 'when', 'what', 'who', and even 'how' of the cases can be figured out objectively with the help of forensics.
Better than interrogation which is subjective and relatively not effective, albeit not being entirely unuseful.
But it will interest you to know that there is only one forensic laboratory in the country, serving all the 651 stations in the state. It is the best in West Africa and refurbished in 2011 with the help of the European Union. Of course, it is in Kawo Kudi, Accra. The non-existence of national DNA and fingerprint databases, doubtless makes it difficult for the one forensic lab to be effective.
My reason for hammering on forensics to the detriment of other equally important facilities needed by the police service is the kidnapping of three young girls in the Western region and the killings of three people, an investigative journalist included.
Without concrete evidence which can be obtained only through proper forensic reports, these incidents will drag on and will end up inconclusive.
Article 202 clause 1 of the 1992 constitution indicates "The Inspector-General of Police shall be appointed by the President acting in consultation with the Council of State."
The immense control that the executive arm of government has on the police makes it utterly impossible for them to prosecute influential persons in our society. They are cowed with threats of transfer, demoting and early retirement.
Lately, there have been a lot of talk on amendments. If the political class really have the interest of ordinary Ghanaian at heart let them amend the enormous appointing power giving to the president by the constitution to make state institutions, such as the police, wholly autonomous.
With regards to solutions, which brings to mind reforms, there have been numerous academicians who have written on how our police service can be reformed.
Dr Raymond Atuguba in his paper, "THE GHANA POLICE SERVICE (GPS): A PRACTICAL AGENDA FOR REFORM" highlighted potent measures which undertaken will help propel our police service.
The paper was published in 2007!
Let's not lose thought of the fact that a democratic society hinges on effective police. Without that the constitution is close to nought.