Tom Tyler (1990) in his influential work ‘Why People Obey the Law’ makes a profound observation about the interactions between citizens and the police. For him, each interaction between the police officer and a citizen (or citizens) is a teaching moment.
The authoritative work by Bottom and Tankebe (a Ghanaian criminologist) takes the argument a step further. They scrutinise earlier works, including those of Leslie Green, Bernard Williams, David Beethan and contend that police-citizens interactions (and police responses) offer the space and opportunity for the police to legitimise (or de-legitimise) their position and power.
I conceive of each unfortunate era of insecurity (by armed violence) as epochs of learning for actors in the security sector
(or some may say time for re-evaluation).
These are pivotal periods when key players, including government, security apparatuses and the public should soberly reflect and scrutinise a wide-range of existing security strategies, draw key lessons from their pitfalls and redesign appropriate strategic interventions.
These new strategies must be interconnected within the short, medium and long term. Inherent in these strategies will be the need to (re)prioritise required resources needed to translate goals into concrete realisation; in the face of often competing national (security) needs.
Expenditure in the security sector
Prioritisation of the procurement needs for the security sector is not a simple and straightforward affair. It can be a murky and complicated business often fraught with, and vulnerable to, gargantuan levels of corruption.
In countries with some form of defence policies, it is the policy that largely determines the procurement needs.
A key reason for the sector’s vulnerability to massive corruption is that the security sector, as generally conceived and articulated over time and space, is regarded as closed or secret. Therefore, it stands to reason, some have argued, that its budgeting processes, allocations and procurements must be cloaked in secrecy for ‘national security reasons’.
As a result of how the sector is seen and governed, it has for years been profoundly allergic to outside scrutiny of any kind; and this notion, sadly, creates and perpetuates an environment imminently conducive for ‘heavy duty’ corruption.
Due to its vulnerability to corruption, periods of major security expenditure are ‘curious moments’. Curious moments because if key players, including civil society, the Auditor-General, the media and the new kid on the bloc – the Special Prosecutor, are not widely awake to examine such expenditure, as Ghanaian proverb says: ‘They will give you a crab for a tortoise’.
Interestingly, the ever-present and ultimate defence against robust scrutiny of the sector is simple: ‘for national security reason’ it cannot be. This argument is used by different governments to shrug off calls by civil society and other state institutions for a more robust regime and scrutiny of the security budgeting and expenditure.
My critical posture about the oversight does not portend I do not appreciate the complicatedness in defining the contours between transparency and secrecy in the sector. I concede it is a delicate and evolving enterprise even in ‘mature’ liberal democracies.
Yet, across the world, there are many instances where heavy doses of non-security variables such as financial greed and undue political interference have been used to manipulate and eclipse the real security variables that should determine the prioritised needs of security apparatuses.
Within the security sector worldwide, fake needs are sometimes created for the security sector. These non-essential items are given a veneer of vital national security importance and purchased primarily because of kickbacks, kick forward, kick sides all in one transaction. The negative domino effects of such acquisitions on morale and efficiency on say quality of policing, coast guard patrols and other security duties are sometimes not immediately apparent to all (but generally detrimental to national security).
GH¢800 million budget
The President has indicated that over GH¢800 million will be allocated to the police to purchase cars, weapons and other logistics. The procurement must find a practical means to consult some regional, divisional and district commanders.
Front line officers, including station officers, have to be consulted too, since they are often most suited to determine what they need most at the station level where the majority of police work is done.
One major challenge the police faces is legitimacy deficit or lack of trust (Tankebe, 2012). Other issues include lack of well designed refresher courses, poor supervision, undue political and other interference in recruitment, promotions, transfers, posting and so on. There are also some challenging systems that do not promote smooth administration at different levels.
Money has to be allocated to these non-hardwares too; although it is not every reform that requires additional cost.
As we continue to reform the police, vehicles, bullet proof vest, etc. procured for the service must be designed for police and useful for different terrains in Ghana for policing duties. Most police vehicles must be painted in police colours to enhance visibility and also make it difficult for individuals to commandeer the cars for personal use.
Gender in police reform
Without a doubt these reforms cannot be gender neutral. Police Ladies Association must be a vital player in determining how the GH¢800 million plus money will be used. For example, buying bullet proof vests should be gender-sensitive. Female police officers are now going on bank guard duties and other assignments that require the wearing of these vests. We should have female suited bullet proof vests suitable for policing work. Weapons must be friendly to police ladies too. Thus the peculiar needs of police women in rural and urban locations have to be factored into the procurement: gender sensitive, budgeting!).
My biggest concern has to do with the increasing call for the purchase of more weapons. I have, technically, no objection, but in doing so, we need to do some careful reflections including an audit of the old stock in order to minimise leakages.
In many instances, the communication gadget may be the best weapon a police officer needs once there are specially trained armed response squads who can respond within minutes.
Let us get value for the over GH¢800 million.
The writer sees himself as a ‘student’ of security (with 20 years of experience)