Why we hate to love the police

BY: Kwabena Agyei-Boahene
The police have enormous powers for good or evil because they are the linchpin of internal security in this country
The police have enormous powers for good or evil because they are the linchpin of internal security in this country

This year could be described as a very dreadful one for the country’s police service. The service is still mourning some departed colleagues who were cruelly gunned down by armed robbers.

The past four months have been terrible for this important institution which has been the backbone of the country’s security.

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It has been said many times, but it is worth repeating: no rational human being will decide to kill a police officer who provides security for him or her. It started with the killing of two officers on the Drobonso-Kumawu road.

The second took place at the Kwabenya Police station when an inspector on duty was shot by a gang who broke into the station to free suspects. This was followed by the killing of another officer on escort duty at Bogoso near Tarkwa.

As expected, these killings have provoked a furry against the police. Many Ghanaians have been worried about their safety and are beginning to question the police’s ability to control crime in this country.

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They wonder why the responsibility for policing this country is vested in the police, but they stand idly by while their officers are being murdered in cold blood. The irony is that the police who should have humbled the robbers are rather been killed by them.

Obviously, the Ghana Police are the main law enforcement agents of this country under the control of the Ministry of Interior.

They perform dangerous roles some of which are natural, multifunctional, complex and in certain instances, complicated. They are the most visible representatives of the government.

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Therefore, when in trouble, a citizen’s first port of call is the police station. They are the most accessible and dynamic people in society.

For decades, the police have been monitoring and investigating crimes, arresting offenders and most important, serving and protecting society at their peril.

But despite being excellent and selfless in these regard, the behaviour of some officers continue to drag the image of this noble institution face down.
They consistently cause serious moral concern and condemnation among the general public.

This disgraceful behaviour, without doubt, motivates people to hate to love or love to hate them.

The first is corruption.

Although it is very difficult to generalise, there is a widely held image that the police are the most corrupt people in this country.

This general public perception has stuck in people’s minds because of the way the police are often seen brazenly extorting money from the public, especially drivers.

When it comes to allegations of bribery and corruption, the police seem to have taken the pride of place.

Indeed, judged by the tactics used, it is easy to conclude that the officers involved in this act develop this precocious talent for taking bribe during training because they are very much hooked to its intoxicating tricks.

This behaviour is also not an isolated situation, but a pattern.

The second and most significant, is the police’s involvement in crime. This behaviour is absolutely disgraceful.

For a police officer whose duty is to protect society and prevent crime to turn himself into a criminal is very worrying.

Nothing is more disturbing than reading or hearing in the media that a member of the Special Weapons and Tactics Unit can connive with armed robbers or other members in the service have also rented out their assigned AK 47 rifles to robbers for a fee.

Clearly, this erodes the confidence the public have in the police.

There is no denying the extent of anxiety, fear and emotional trauma these incidents have caused society.

People have become terribly worried about where this country is heading if the police can now involve themselves in crime.

Related to the above is the police’s attitude of releasing confidential information to criminals.

For a long time, there have been numerous allegations against the police in this regard.

There have been many complaints from the public about police officers who report informants to criminals after they have volunteered information to them.

This is a terrible behaviour which must cease forthwith.

The third problem in the police’s cluster of disgraceful behaviour is their attitude of siding with the government or political party in power.

They always remain faithful to the government of the day and do everything in their power to suppress dissent. This, most often, results in abuse, unprofessionalism and ineffectiveness. The police’s core mandate is to maintain law and order impartially.

Therefore, taking a side in their line of duty is very unfortunate.

Another disturbing behaviour the police often put up which arouses public anger is the act of putting people behind bars beyond the stipulated 48 hours deliberately.

A case in point is the deliberate incarceration of both a lactating mother and a pregnant woman beyond the required period of detention by the Madina Police on February 5, this year. Such a behaviour put up by a well-respected body like the police makes their case even more complicated to unravel.

Interestingly, the police have always referred to miscreant among them as bad apples. Unfortunately, these bad apples continue to tarnish the image of the service.

An example is the uncouth behaviour exhibited by the Formed Police Unit during an international assignment in South Sudan recently.

The 46-member contingent allegedly involved themselves in transactional sex with the vulnerable including beneficiaries of assistance which is a clear breach of the United Nations and the United Nations Mission in South Sudan’s code of conduct.

This shows clearly that bad apples in the service are no longer few but a full barrel.

If truth be told, the police will continue to face more difficulties and embarrassments if strong measures are not put in place to tackle these problems. The foundation of quality policing lies in recruitment.

The service has consistently recruited some people who are not remotely up to the job. Proper security checks are not usually conducted on selected applicants.

This makes them morally bankrupt. To make matters worse, political party faithful are forced upon the police administration to be recruited without meeting the set criteria for selection.

Working in such a sensitive place easily gives morally bankrupt people the automatic right to abuse people and also behave carelessly on the job.

Since its establishment, about 33 Inspector Generals have been appointed to oversee the service. What they do best is reshuffling the top personnel to show the country that they are working and everything looks set.

Now, what is actually needed is a strong leadership and the commitment to push through laws, reforms and ideas that will ensure effective and efficient policing in the country. It is definitely time to initiate an “operation zero culprit” in the service.

This can help the administration to quickly spot any vice in the service and prevent it from becoming an epidemic.

Establishing a whistleblowing department to genuinely trail miscreants, look into their cases and deal thoroughly with them could also be considered.

The police have enormous powers for good or evil because they are the linchpin of internal security in this country.

Therefore, they should set a shining example by employing loyal, decent and morally upright people into the service for society to love them.