Opinions Thu, 26 Jul 2018

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Institutional Reforms; Ghana Police Service in perspective

The way and manner with which issues are approached in the larger Ghanaian space haven’t yielded the desired results due to our over sentimentalism, hypocrisy and whining spree. We virtually neglect institutional reforms which is a major tool for salvaging dire situations but rather throw emotions about and invent some quack solutions as a lifeline for the moment.

The instant an issue pops up, most people if not all, rush to the Court of public opinion, serve subpoenas to parties to the case and eventually dish out all sort of judgements. In the Ghanaian space, a trending social issue has a life expectancy of at most seven days before the attention of the public is drifted unto the next one.

Who remembers the Mawarko case, the dilapidated state of the Kumasi-Sunyani road that led to the demise of Ebony and two others, flooding in the capital and quite recently, Mr. K. Nyantakyi’s quest to take over the whole country as shown in a recent documentary by Anas Aremeyaw Anas titled 'number 12'?

Okay, so enough of the rhetorics and shades, how about we speak to the real issues?

Question: must our revolts and agitations end on social media as if we were keypad warriors?

In the last eight months, 20 people suspected to be armed robbers have been shot and killed by the police across the country. These have generated a lot of debates especially with the reprisal attacks that followed the killing of seven suspected armed robbers in the Ashanti Region who belonged to the Asawasi constituency as reports indicated.

Below are a few resolutions worthy of consideration;

1. Recruitment Process

As robust as the recruitment into the security services may seem, it is not bereft of incidents of political polarization. In 2014, I joined the enlistment process into the Ghana Armed Forces with the hopes of being in the camouflage in service for God and Country fueled by my heightened enthusiasm. From documentation, aptitude test, outdoor leaderless test, medicals to interview, only one thing was certain and that was, just an infinitesimal number will make it to the end without support from invisible hands.

What this situation presents is having men in uniform to satisfy the quest of job security and not necessarily the exhibition of passion and commitment to duty. The solution to this is making sure that entry into the security services is based on meritocracy and not subject to the whims and caprices of the powers that be.

Curbing the incidents of compromised recruitment processes in the security services must be highly prioritized because of the glaring adverse effects. Having ill motivated men in uniform is as bad as an increase in crime rate. It is important for our politicians to note that our security services can not be reduced to an extension of ‘job for the boys’ and be treated as business as usual. Our security capos on the other hand must exemplify the integrity the service demands and speak the truth to power when need be no matter what it may cost them.

2. The appointment of service chiefs

It is human nature for appointees to have an elevated version of a subordinate/superior relationship with the appointing authority. The extent of authority given to the Presidency under the 1992 Constitution presents a situation whereby nothing ‘important’ can be done without the consent of His Excellency the President of the Republic. At certain levels, the appointment of high profile security capos shifts from the structural promotional process to ‘political appointments’ which subtly pushes their allegiance to the State into the widely opened arms of politicians.

This system hasn’t entirely been helpful and fuels political polarization in the security services which could be problematic if not curtailed with proper reforms. We are all aware of what happens to security capos after change of government, irrespective of how good they were, they are headed for the dungeons.

The surest way out of this is to amend the relevant Constitutional provisions and Acts that subject certain high profile security service appointments to the political authority of the day. Currently, a situation whereby those well placed for such appointments have to lobby and prove beyond reasonable doubt that they have the politics of the day at heart is the bane we have to contend with. Let’s eschew this!

3. Upholding professionalism, ethical standards and rules of engagement.

Every institution is guided by ethical standards that ensure professionalism at all levels. About 14 officers have recently been withdrawn from the Ghana Police Service after investigations into conducts of sexual exploitation were completed by the United Nations and Ghana’s CID. I know this leaves much to be desired but one may ask, were these not the same persons commissioned to protect fundamental human rights, lives and properties?

The trending video on social media involving a policeman who maltreated a nursing mother at one of the offices of Midland Savings and Loans falls short of the social contract that exists between civilians and the police.

One thing that beats my mind is the refusal of the Regional Police Command to answer any of the questions posed by journalists at the press briefing following the case of the killing of the seven suspected armed robbers. I can’t fathom what led us to this point. Frantic efforts should be made to ensure that service men display high level of professionalism and all who fall short of this face sanctions commensurate with the violations.

In ensuring that professional standards are observed with high esteem, I advocate for a national complaint department and the establishment of a standing investigative committee (must be independent and comprise members outside the police service) tasked with looking into cases of abuse and gross misconduct involving service men.

This will also serve as a platform for the vindication of those wrongly accused. It has also been observed that a lot of Policemen no longer wear their service numbers which makes them easily identifiable, thus, the Police High Command must revisit this issue and ensure a redress. Rules of engagements at various crime levels must be unequivocally spelt out to avoid chaos.

The strategy of ghost shopping should be implemented to fish out officers who fall short of professional standards periodically. Exceptional performance exhibited by an officer must also be given a National recognition to serve as a motivation for others.

4. Retooling the police

It is not an all gloomy picture judging from how the police and other security setups have executed their mandate in this country, a major challenge remains - logistical constraints. It is imperative to provide the needed logistics and retool the Police to put them in a position to combat crime head on. If there should be a terrorist attack in this country, how long will it take the police to respond and how efficient will that be done? Do they have the capacity to periodically conduct simulation exercises in preparation to mitigate modern threats? In certain parts of the country, there are police stations without vehicles and/ or ammunitions to combat crime.

And sadly, there’s even a police station somewhere in Accra which was built by members of the community but is yet to be operationalized after several months of completion. The other side to this coin is ensuring that the wages and salaries of personnel in the security services are commensurate enough with their workload and/ or ranks. This is a sure way to reducing the corruption that is associated with the security services. Will you be able to bribe an Article 71 worker with GHS 5?

As a state, we need to make sure that all the logistical needs in combating crimes are provided for and also, a conscious effort must be made in creating and/or harnessing a disaster relief network that will encompass the Police, Ambulance Service (we will obviously need more than the fifty-five (55) ambulances currently on our roads serving the whole country), Fire Service, NADMO and the Military. Beyond this, a lot more effort must be directed to reducing the turnaround time in responding to distress calls.

5. Conditions of service

Comparatively, the conditions of service of our security agencies are not the best if you take a closer look. Will the police go on strike if they could and what will be the implications thereof? Most of these police barracks that serve as home to the police service are in bad shape and need immediate renovations and upgrade. How about the State providing proper modern accommodation facilities for the men and women in uniform?

Another school of thought suggests an end to the police encampment system. This means placing the police amongst the people with the aim of bridging the gap that exists between the people and the police. Should this not be given a careful thought?

Let’s explore the possibility of ending the police encampment system and have all the relevant conversations around it. The existing facilities should however be renovated to meet up required standards. The police cannot execute its mandate properly without the relevant logistics, this we must provide and constantly upgrade.

6. Capacity Building

Due to the changing nature of security situations and threats around the world, it is prudent to consistently engage the police force in capacity building activities to put them in the best position to fight crime in diverse ways. Security threats over the years have undergone several metamorphoses and currently the guerrilla warfare approach of terrorists is difficult to submerge. Will the police be able to rise to the occasion when duty calls?

We have had situations in the past where people in robbery situations have had zero help from the police after placing distress calls. There have also been situations where the approach employed by the police in crowd control during demonstrations have resulted in several casualties and falls short of professionalism. Having periodic capacity building and training programmes for our service men to match up current trends is a sure way to go.

Crime changes with the passage of time and gets more sophisticated. As such, the security services must institutionalize periodic capacity building opportunities.

7. Witness protection

The unavailability of a rigorous witness protection mechanism is one of the major reasons why hardcore crime continues to thrive. A citizen no matter how good and zealous would always think about their personal security before confronting issues that will ultimately help unearth high level organized crime. At the Kwame Nkrumah Circle in Accra for instance, traders look on while pickpockets enjoy a field day.

They dare not make an attempt to redeem the situation unless they are ready to run to the hinterlands or close their eyes to the gory fate that await them. People know who the criminals are and their hideouts but until a proper witness protection policy is implemented, they may not want to put their lives and that of their families unnecessarily in harm’s way especially with the reported cases of robbery involving some unscrupulous uniform men.

Nonetheless, I take this opportunity to admonish well meaning Ghanaians to volunteer relevant information to help fight crime in our various jurisdictions. It is equally incumbent on Ghana Police Service to throw more light on related issues including and not exclusively, citizens arrest.

Putting in place a well structured witness protection policy is a prerequisite to fighting high level crime and must be duly explored. The Ghana Police Service together with the National Commission for Civic Education must embark on massive public education on key issues such as citizens arrest and other relevant issues.

Let’s have proper reforms in our state institutions especially the security services by putting in place a robust recruitment process, amending the relevant laws to ameliorate political polarization, retooling the police, implementation of better conditions of service, upholding professional standards, capacity building and a solid witness protection policy. This is the only way governance can get better to the benefit of all and sundry. Let’s continue to demand more from those who bear the mandate of the people to execute such functions with utmost good faith.

This write up was inspired by a post recently made by my brother J. M. Cobinnah on his Facebook wall.

Columnist: George Sarpong

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