The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Mr David Asante-Apeatu, has attributed the security breaches and violence that characterised the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election to the lack of coordination and collaboration between the Ghana Police Service and the National Security Council.
He, therefore, recommended improvement in coordination in internal security operations to avert similar occurrences.
Mr Asante-Apeatu made the attribution in Accra yesterday when he appeared before the Justice
Emile Short Commission of Enquiry into the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election violence.
He further admitted that the police were not informed about the security operation on the said day, although the operation was under police inscription, describing the situation as unfortunate.
He further complained about the dressing and the mode of operation by the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) squad, saying: “The way the operation was conducted leaves much to be desired. The dressing of the security personnel alone could have led to the rebellious nature of the crowd trying to resist the security from carrying out their intended search.
“I am sure if they were in police uniform, there would not have been such violence because the people would have accepted and identified with the blue police uniform better.”
“If the men deployed to La-Bawaleshie had worn the normal blue police uniforms, it would have caused the people to cooperate with the police, but the presence of masked men rather instilled fear in the people,” he stated.
Mr Asante-Apeatu indicated that apart from improving internal security, he was having discussions with some individuals in the National Security and the Police Service to ensure effective coordination in such operations.
When asked if the violence, the shooting in front of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) candidate’s house and the assault on a parliamentarian, Mr Sam George, had been brought to his attention, he responded in the affirmative.
On how soon they came to his attention, the IGP said the Minister of the Interior called him to find out if he had heard about the incident at the La Bawaleshie Polling Centre during the Ayawaso West Wuogon be-election.
Although he had not heard about the incident at the time of the call, he gave his word that he would verify the information and provide feedback for the minister.
“So I called my operations, who told me the situation had come to his notice through the media and he was proceeding to the constituency,” he said.
The IGP said he then asked the Director-General in charge of Operations to furnish him with the report immediately.
Responding to a question on who should be the right person to have brought the incident to his attention, he said it did not matter who a complainant was, as the media and any ordinary person could bring issues to his attention.
National Security deployment
Mr Asante-Apeatu also indicated that he did not know about the deployment of the SWAT team, adding that policemen deployed to maintain law and order during the by-election were properly attired and driven in police branded vehicles and inscriptions.
He, however, said he both agreed and disagreed with the suggestion that although the police were in charge of internal security, if any other security agency was going to be deployed to handle an operation that bordered on internal security, the man in charge of internal security (IGP) needed to be notified.
“Yes, because if the operation was not going to be beyond the Ghana Police Service, then we should be informed, and ‘No’ because the National Security Council is the governing body of all intelligence in the country and the intelligence it gathers is disseminated on a need-to-know basis and we act on the reports we receive from the council. It has the prerogative sometimes not to inform us of its deployments,” he said.
Asked whether that was an admission that the National Security Council superseded the Ghana Police Service in matters of internal security, the IGP said the council had a role to play per its mandate.
Crime scene management
The IGP said last Sunday (March 3, 2019) was the first time he visited the crime scene after the shooting incident, explaining that although he served as the head of the crime scene management team, he did have to visit the place immediately because the service had competent crime scene managers.
Asked if it had come to his notice that the crime scene, minutes after the shooting incident, got disturbed, he said the phenomenon “was not unusual in the country” and recommended public education.
He stated his intention to include it in a police public education television programme known as “Police Watch”.
Mr Asante-Apeatu said 36 police officers were on secondment at the National Security Council, to which they were operationally responsible, even though the Police Service still maintained a hold on them administratively.
“It is only in terms of administration that we have responsibility over them. So ordinarily National Security may choose to inform us of activities in which our men on secondment are involved. But I do not expect National Security to inform the Ghana Police Service of its operations,” he said.
The IGP said the police officers on secondment had been trained to adhere to the code of ethics and operational standards of the Ghana Police Service, including having respect for the rule of law, and that breaches incurred the discipline of the service, irrespective of whether they were following orders that were unlawful.
“They must uphold the rule of law at all times, without any option or excuses,” he said.
The police, he said, had finished an interim report on internal investigations into the incident, a copy of which he tendered to the commission.
On vigilantism, the IGP described it as a threat to democracy and recommended that if the public would decide not to vote for political parties with vigilante groups, it would leave the police alone to do their work with ease.
“It is my firm belief that if all of us say whoever has a vigilante group in this political party we are not going to vote for you, you won’t get that power,” he told the commission.
He said political parties claimed they did not sponsor party militia groups but individuals in the party might be doing so.
He said the failure of the country to stop vigilante groups from growing to become dangerous militia organisations would be difficult to reverse in the future.
The IGP, therefore, called on civil society organisations, political parties and Ghanaians in general to collaborate with the security agencies to curtail the violent activities by the various vigilante groups in the country.
Mr Asante-Apeatu called on political parties to register private security companies that would be regulated by law if they wanted to keep internal security, instead of allowing such militia groups to be affiliated to them.
He also called for more punitive and deterrent measures for political thugs as a departure from the current situation where some of the crimes were categorised as misdemeanors which only attracted paltry fines and the signing of bonds to be of good behaviour.