Detecting the real enemy; Why Ghana Police needs no ‘superman’
As a young journalist, one of the most intriguing, important,yet unpleasant subjects I covered was crime. During this period, I have met suspects who have confessed to various degrees of crime ranging from murder to stealing.
The hardened suspects were always lucky to return alive. Those who dared to challenge the police in a gun battle mostly returned as dead suspects. I always broke down whenever some of these suspects succeeded in killing police officers in the gun battles.
In one such case, about 15 armed robbers were on a robbing spree at Weija in Accra. They had two vehicles, one mini bus and a pickup. The police upon a tip-off pursued the robbers in their dragon – the Tundra. The robbers after a hot chase engaged the policemen in a shootout. After about 20 minutes of gunfire exchange, one policeman was gunned down, but the police managed to kill about four of the suspects and arrested the remaining suspects. On that day, there was so much anger within the service at the Accra Regional Police Command. One policeman said to me, ‘Franklin this suspect killed one of us. So I don’t understand why my colleagues killed only four and brought the rest. They should have killed all of them and leave only two for purposes of prosecution’. This is to make the point that the issue of discretion when it comes to the use of force can be very controversial.
Over the last two months, there has been a worrying trend which may appear very unprecedented and unusual. During that same period, I have read and seen a consistent campaign both on social media and on prime radio for the appointment of some very senior police officers to the position of the Inspector General of Police. While this trend may form part of the democratic privileges of the authors, it is a very dangerous trend to see and hear such publications.
It possibly reflects serious reservations made by many people that the police institution has become heavily politicized. A quick assessment of appointments in the Ghana Armed Forces will reveal that at no point have the appointments of Chiefs of Defence Staff and other senior appointments, become a subject for political scrutiny and discussions.
This does not even happen in the Prisons Service or the Immigration Service. Appointments and promotions are made without any evil partisan scrutiny or assessment. It appears to be a professional exercise, but can same be said with the Ghana Police Service?
Note that two months before this whole sense of insecurity, similar campaigns were being run on social media on two persons, Commissioners of Police, Kofi Boakye and Christian Tetteh-Yohuno. There were consistent campaigns on social media for their appointment to either act as IGP, Director General Operations or Director General CID (when the CID job became vacant).
In my opinion, these three positions are the most important positions in the Police Service. These campaigns came in the form of well-designed posters and carefully created graphics intended to solicit for public support. What a way to take advantage of the heightened insecurity to get the job done. There was no way their supporters or assigns would have campaigned for them to occupy the Technical Department or the Services Department. Interestingly some persons I know or do not know or who may not have taken a position on this matter, did so because of the sense of insecurity in the past few days. But I cannot blame them. A problem has been created and a ‘messiah’ is being projected as the sole deliverer so why won’t they fall for the wind?
I have argued that the Service is suffering from years of neglect. I can bet you that the Komenda Edina Eguafo Assembly, KEEA, is more resourced than any of the police commands in the country. Less than 20% of the budget demands are given to them. The best the politicians have done is to throw vehicles at them, thinking that is the solution to their challenges. Cells are poorly constructed; many cells haven’t seen any renovation for more than 40 years. The Kalashnikov rifle (AK 47) is believed to be the best weapon ever to have been manufactured. But how can our service men be using rusty AKs bound by brown and black ‘cellutapes’ and other adhesives in 2018? Not half of service men can use a rifle and that is a fact. Never assume that every police man or woman you see around is capable of handling a weapon.
Yes; it is part of the six months training regime but if what a former Police Commissioner said on UTV last week is anything to go by, then they spend only two days on weapon training. However, it must be noted that members of the anti-robbery squad and other combat teams are regularly trained to handle the weapon for operational purposes.
Men and women continue to live in dire situations and yet, we expect to wave a wand and expect a magical operational action from them. Trust me, so many police officers haven’t set sight on a bullet proof vest before; and I have seen so many of them who cannot even fix a handcuff on a suspect.
There are real problems from recruitment to leadership (at the highest level) in the service, so I cannot blame the current insecurity on the lack of resources. The current insecurity has nothing to do with strategy and that is why every single security expert who has been interviewed hasn’t complained about the lack of strategy.
I would usually ignore such uninformed posts largely being circulated by known group of people until two weeks ago when these disingenuous campaigns became widespread and gained traction. It was obvious that such persons were taking advantage of the sense of insecurity to promote these two men for these jobs.
DCOP Kofi Boakye as he then was, was transferred to the Ashanti Region as the Regional Commander. It is a clear fact that during his tenure, armed attacks increased exponentially. I personally worked on stories about the insecurity in the region especially after the killing of a police officer. This insecurity was so serious that the National Operations Command despatched more than 100 police officers to quell the deadly menace. The then IGP had to visit the region to assess the operational structures in the region.
The brutal attacks became a national issue and occupied our media space for many weeks until the additional men from Accra and the complementary works of the Northern Command of the Ghana Armed Forces made a difference. Could we have blamed the then regional commander for the insecurity or could we have rightfully claimed that he lacked leadership and operational skills, thereby causing the feared deaths and attacks?
The Kofi Boakye analogy
There is this myth about COP Boakye and the arrest of Ataa Ayi. His supporters appear to use the arrest of this serial killer and robber as the reason behind their demand for his appointment to the high office of IGP. From the social media messages, some are also infatuated about his public show of force, mostly with broad biceps, thick black shades and his use of security dogs as a sign of strength capable of sending fears down the spine and mind of criminals.
Crime in the modern day is fought with the use of technology, modern resources (personnel and equipment) and data and not through ‘superhero’ fiction images. These images were available and seen, but criminals in the Ashanti Region somewhat had the freedom and boldness to operate. The point I am making is that, our current threats cannot be solved by any single individual, not even the revered five star U.S General, David Patraeus or the C.I.A Director Mike Pompeo, if the police institution is under-resourced.
If you want me to be very realistic, COP Kofi Boakye may never be appointed as IGP under an NPP government and this is why. He was put on indefinite suspension pending the final determination of possibly the biggest cocaine scandal in our history. The state did not bring any charges against him after years of investigations, but was still not in active service. President John Mahama reinstated him, and years later promoted him to the coveted rank of Commissioner of Police.
Three years prior to the general elections, videos and pictures were widely circulated depicting a rather harmonious and what appeared to be a very personal relationship between COP Boakye and the former President. In fact, we all saw the mistrust between the then opposition NPP, now the ruling party in the region, and the then regional commander ahead of the elections. That mistrust is still very much alive in my opinion. Let us not kid ourselves, when you speak to NPP functionaries they are very bold and convinced that COP Boakye may never be appointed IGP under this government.
Possibly it explains why many NPP functionaries on social media mock at this campaign for him to become IGP, and why some NDC functionaries also openly support a campaign bid to see him appointed as IGP. I am not in any way doubting any professional value he may have.
As for COP Yohuno, I was lucky enough to have covered crime in the region during his tenure as Accra Regional Police Commander. When I saw campaigns being circulated for his appointment as IGP, I hissed at those calls. My moments as a journalist who reports mostly on security, was during his tenure. ‘Criminal activities in Accra bi what’? From Teshie, Amasaman, Achimita, Kaneshie, Amanfrom, Weija, Dansoman, Tsui Bleo, Spintex, I mean you just name it – these areas were constantly under attack. As journalists, we always expected an attack for purposes of our reportage because we could predict them. You could not see any clear vision and strategy to eliminate those crimes. Once Mr. Kudalor was made IGP, I knew he was going to be appointed as Director General Operations of the Service due to their close relationship, when Mr. Kudalor served in that capacity.
During AFAG and LMVCA demonstrations, we could easily see the security lapses during his tenure, and it was at that time I duffed my heart to the then Nima Divisional Commander ACP Jango for showing a lot of leadership. And of course, proponents reserve the right to embark on this unethical path of clamouring support for him to be appointed IGP.
An incapable IGP?
I branded and referred to the current IGP, as incompetent and ineffective in an article published more than seven months ago. I may have been justified on hindsight. As usual, an IGP who was some few weeks away from his retirement was appointed and is now on a two-year contract. Trust me, nothing will change under him. He is still clueless as I predicted many months ago. His latest reshuffle clearly showed how tactless he is and how he lacks ideas. Either ways his days to step down or be sacked as IGP are very much numbered, and already lobbying for his successor has begun in earnest. This is what Former President Rawlings tweeted some days ago;‘Let us hope the recent robbery and killings is downright plain robbery and not a politically motivated action from within or without, calculated to undermine those in charge of the security machinery in order to pave the way for certain parochial ambitions’.
In Ghana, we clearly rubbish these very peculiar observations but easily accept them in movies. Commanders at all levels access information to arrest the bigger criminals and this includes suspects of murder, drugs among others. Many of these informants are ‘smaller’ criminals who are used to fish out the ‘bigger’ criminals. They are rewarded for the kind of intel they give and have a strong bond and relationship with these commanders.
I am aware of many popular and serious criminal cases that were unraveled due to the information given by these guys. What is the point I want to make? Are we saying that it will be out of place for these ‘informants’ to be used to perpetuate some crimes such as the ones we are witnessing in order to undermine some persons in authority within the security service? Until some confession statements were made via popular social media activist David Papa Bondze-Mbir, many people wouldn’t have believed the things people could do, to achieve what they want even if it involves the loss of lives and property. Nothing is impossible and the world as we see it today is really ‘dark’.
May our President take the best security decisions and make the best security appointments in our interest as a nation and not because of the partisan interest of a select few. If anything, Martin Amidu’s appointment as Special Prosecutor suggests that there are still incorruptible and very honest people to serve the country’s interest.