Police – civilian relations: the case of the investigator who vanished

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

Every Inspector-General of Police comes into office appealing for improved police – civilian relations. Yet, the experience is that some of the IGP’s own people, the police, continue to demonstrate that their boss’s message means little to them.

Times without number it has been proven that it is the police who need educating on the importance of harmony with civilians, notably through professionalism and fairness in the performance of their duties.

Just a few weeks ago, IGP Mr. David Asante Apeatu was quoted as emphasizing the importance of “the goodwill and support of the citizenry” to assist the police to perform to the best of their abilities. The IGP said this in Accra, on December 28 when he launched the Centenary Celebration of the Police Band.

However, last weekend, an emotional, anguished lament of Elliot Agyare, a renowned publisher, about a police officer’s behaviour, was posted on a Social Media platform.

The following is an abridged version of Mr. Agyare’s story.

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Mr Agyare’s complaint

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Saturday, February 3, 2018: I need to make a formal complaint about the manner in which my nieces were detained overnight at the Adenta Police Station cells on the night of February, 2, 2018.

But my problem is: who do I send it to? Is it the IGP, or the Chief Justice or the Attorney General? Is it to CHRAJ? Who can act to speedily correct this continuing injustice?

My nieces are the daughters of the late Coach Herbert Addo (a former Coach of the National Team, the Black Stars). Since his demise, the children have had an ongoing problem with their father’s widow. A physical fight with their stepmother resulted in them being arraigned before the Adenta Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Friday, February 2).

The Judge advised that the case be settled within the family and both sides apparently agreed to report back to the Judge on March 14. The sisters were asked to provide two sureties each to bail them. That is where I came in being their uncle.

I arrived at the Adenta Police Station at 11.15 a.m. to help bail them. Although they needed 10 individuals to bail them, those of us who were at the Adenta Police Station on their behalf numbered 14. And then our ordeal began.

To our amazement, after leaving the sisters in the care of the officer who was in charge at the counter, the case investigator simply vanished.
The investigator had switched off her phone and was unreachable! She did not appear at the station for the rest of the time we were at the station. Her phone was still off at 6 p.m. when I left the police station.

Was it a deliberate ploy to make the sisters suffer "the Friday cell" treatment one hears about, forced to endure incarceration until Monday because one couldn’t arrange bail?

Surprisingly, although they were approached on countless occasions, the District Commander, Head of Station, and the other officers at the station could not act to protect the human rights of the individuals in their care.

I would have thought that spending the night in cells would be the last option and only happen if the accused failed to provide sureties. Why should they be incarcerated when the sureties were waiting there for close to six hours?

Nevertheless, I should commend the Registrar and Court Clerk at the Adenta Magistrates’ Court who waited until 4.45 p.m. as we tried everything in vain to locate the investigator. Also, seemingly out of compassion, an inspector allowed one of the sisters who was pregnant to be bailed at 4.30 p.m.
But what of the one with a breastfeeding child under two years? The baby had to be brought to the station to breastfeed! What of the other who has a problem with her hip but had to stand throughout the incarceration?

Does the IGP permit this behaviour of his officers? Does the Judiciary find this breach of the directive of a court acceptable? How can we allow our own citizens to be treated without any care for their dignity and human rights?

Late on Friday night, contact was finally made with the investigator. She had excuses: her phone was not charged; she was not feeling well, etc. She promised to be at the police station at 12 noon on Saturday to start processing the bail papers.

We assembled at the Adenta Police Station at about 9 a.m. It was evident that the mosquitoes had really feasted on the sisters.

However, the investigator did not make it at the promised time so around 12. 45 p.m., we called her and suggested that we could pick her up from home.
I picked her up from Oyarifa at 1.20 p.m. On our way to her office (Domestic Violence) she had a call and she informed us that the Divisional Commander wanted her to see him. Their meeting lasted for over two and half hours.

At about 4.30 p.m., we were asked to come and sign bail forms for the release. At 5.30 p.m. (Saturday), my nieces were finally released. We were told to report on Monday morning at 8 a.m. to complete the bail process. I guess we were lucky. Perhaps some calls had come from some higher quarters to make their release happen.
No apology, no explanations from any quarters.

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Reading about Mr. Agyare’s family’s ordeal, my conclusion was that it appears a police investigator has more power than even the Station Commander under whom that investigator works!

How can an investigator blatantly refuse to carry out a court order? Was it because she had no fear of any sanction?

There are of course many, many good police officers who do their work professionally and are a credit to their uniform.

However, there are too many who clearly have a very questionable attitude. The penchant to take sides, to show civilians ‘where power lies’ happens too often!

Unfortunately, the perception is that the incidence of police officers on a ‘power trip’ is a regular occurrence throughout the country.

So I pose this question to the IGP, as well as to the Judiciary: can it be right that people are left solely at the mercy of a police investigator, such as happened in this case?

How can this help build “goodwill and support of the citizenry”? More importantly, should this be allowed to continue?

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