Police visibility at strategic places in towns and cities is undeniably one of the noticeable observations one can make of Mr Mohammed Allasaan's administration as the Inspector-General of Police (IGP).
The presence of police personnel at traffic intersections, traffic lights and other vantage points have the psychological effect of assuring the public that there is always somewhere to turn to in the event of being attacked or when one requires direction to a destination.
Yes, the police are there not only to prevent crime or enforce the law. In many civilised and enlightened jurisdictions, the police are the best friends of any visitor or stranger who may lose his/her way in the city and may require directions.
Some of us have experienced this on the few occasions we found ourselves outside our natural habitat called Ghana. Whether personnel of the Ghana Police Service themselves have a good knowledge of Accra and other cities to offer any assistance in this regard and whether they know it as part of their duties is another matter.
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I say this fully aware that unlike in many cities in other countries where an information on a piece of paper could send you straight through doors into an office or a home, the same cannot be said of our cities, notably Accra, and any reliance on the police or the taxi driver for help can be disastrous for reasons we all know. Most parts of Accra and other cities in Ghana have not been developed according to plan and street names are left to the fancy of individuals.
Police visibility also has the advantage of discouraging criminals from carrying out their “trade”. The police are also more mobile now but the question is whether the siren-blurring police vehicles that have become common on our streets and highways are always for crime prevention or just for personal aggrandisement.
What could be said with certainty is that members of the public find the police closer to them now than before and we hope that would translate into fewer crimes and more security in our national life and daily activities.
Beyond this development, which is a feather in the cap of the service, there are serious challenges confronting personnel of the service in their delivery that do not meet the eye unless one gets closer.
Office and residential accommodation is a major problem personnel are grappling with. Many police stations, district and divisional headquarters are housed in rented premises. Many of these stations and offices are an eyesore because of the poor furnishings and obvious signs of neglect.
The General Acheampong regime started the construction of office complexes for all regional police headquarters nationwide, none of which has been completed almost 40 years after their initiation. This cannot be a good commentary for a country that claims to love its police service and values internal security.
These obvious physical deprivations, aside cashflow challenges affecting internal administration, are woefully unacceptable. A divisional commander told me, and this was confirmed by others, that they received operational imprest of GHC200 every month to run a whole division. The regional headquarters fare better. They receive averagely GH¢800 (eight million old cedis) as monthly imprest for operational purposes.
These amounts are to take care of maintenance, fuel and other overheads of the service. It is, therefore, not surprising that most operational vehicles are grounded because of battery problems or faults arising out of 'one gallon, one gallon' purchases to fuel them.
Most of the vehicles we still see galloping on the roads may be at the expense of benefactors whose support may not go unrewarded in the long run. They say one good turn deserves another, so we do not need to emphasise the point that allowing the police service as a law enforcement agency to operate on the largesse of benevolent individuals and companies is a dangerous trend that must not be encouraged.
Dear reader, you have every right to open your mouth wide in amazement! Two million old cedis as operational cost for a whole police division and you ask whether this is a serious country? This is an amount many senior public servants fed on state funds could just squeeze into their pockets daily without knowing it.
I expect official denials but that will not solve our problems. We need to do more to liberate a service that has a reputation for corruption by extricating it from the claws of opportunists who will be ready to offer assistance today for a reward tomorrow.
We also need to protect personnel who may be compelled by circumstances beyond their control to stretch out their hands for a few cedi notes if that would guarantee their transport to and from work or to even fuel an official operational vehicle of the service.
Zero tolerance for corruption should not just be a slogan. It must be a philosophy that must be pursued to the letter. One sure way to do this is to ensure that the Ghana Police Service is the last state institution to operate on charity.