Professional policing in the country has evolved from the British colonial period when it was introduced in 1821. Prior to that, maintenance of law and order was organised by the traditional authorities who employed unpaid messengers, known in the Akan communities as “Ahenfie polisi” (Palace police) to carry out executive and judicial functions in their respective communities.
At that time, the police were known, among other things, for their brutality of the civilian population, as they were seen as a feared crop of people who only obeyed what the “master” said.
Although in 1894 the activities of the police were formalised with the passage of the Police Ordinance to give legal backing to the formation of a Civil Police Force, which is now the Ghana Police Service, the police still displayed the same characteristics.
So for a long time it was common knowledge that the police used brutal force to maintain law and order. That became so common that one only needed to issue threats of police arrest to people, especially children, to get them to conform to rules.
But policing has changed over the years and modern policing no longer uses brute force and brutalities to effect arrest and keep law and order.
Training and retraining have contributed in no small measure to give the police a different positive image, in spite of the perception of corruption with which they have been tagged.
With crime assuming new dimensions as criminals adopt more complex methods, the police have been put under severe stress. It is also a fact that some of the severest and most heinous crimes have been perpetrated by some elements in the Police Service or with the connivance of some policemen.
But the police, as an institution, has not been daunted by these unfortunate situations. They have arrested their own who have fallen foul of the law and prosecuted such erring ones.
The police have not stopped there: in order to provide timely and reliable information for the public, they have rolled out an all-embracing public platform on which policing issues in Ghana are discussed.
The Daily Graphic applauds the Ghana Police Service for introducing the Ghana Police Watch series on television.
Already, the first two programmes have been aired on major television networks in the country and the signals around the country are that the programme is catching on well with the people.
The programme is giving a lot of useful education to the public and the citizenry have seen the need to hold policemen who exhibit unprofessional conduct to account. We are also of the belief that it will allow the police to sit up in their work, since they are aware that they are being watched by the citizenry.
Again, the programme will help the public develop confidence in the police and that will encourage citizens to volunteer information to the police, which is a critical ingredient in fighting crime.
As laudable as the programme is, we hope that effective evaluation mechanisms will be put in place to improve it timeously. We cannot continue to operate in a system with strained relations between the police and the civilian population because there is no way the police will succeed in their work without civilian cooperation.
In the same way, the civilian population cannot live in peace if the police do not deliver on their mandate. Once again, we give a thumbs up to the police for this and encourage them not to be deterred by the challenges but make the institution the envy of all.