Police deaths - Is prayer really the answer?

BY: Daily Graphic
Police deaths -  Is prayer really the answer?

The recent killing of a police officer on duty at Kwabenya and similar killings by criminals are despicable and ought to be condemned by all right-thinking people.

This was a cowardly act because the officer was not even armed and the attackers could have achieved what they wanted without shedding blood.

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Though Ghana is a secular state, we seek the face of God in everything we do and that is why attempts to seek God’s intervention in this matter are welcomed.

While there is no basis for comparison, it is on record that 129 police officers were killed by assailants in the United States of America (USA) last year despite their best effort to make police work safe.

The reality is that policing all over the world is a high-risk job and a certain level of casualty must be permissible.

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We may not have been used to such high fatalities in the past but it must not be lost on us that society is changing and crime has taken a new violent dimension altogether. Not forgetting the increase in population, especially in the urban centres.

It is in this regard that certain practical interventions should be considered first.
First of all, there is the need to retrain all police personnel to understand the dynamics of the contemporary nature of crime and policing so that they can confront it head-on. Recruits for instance must be made to understand that the job of policing requires a different approach from that of a bank teller though the end result may be about putting food on one’s table.

The first requirement, therefore, is to conscientise police personnel to appreciate the risky nature of their job. This is crucial, since the human being must be the key agent of any effective change.

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I was once travelling and stopped to eat at a bush canteen. A team of four police officers drove in, left their weapons in the bucket of their pick-up and came in to enjoy fufu and grasscutter, oblivious of the danger they were exposing themselves to.

This was at a remote place in the middle of nowhere and they could have been an easy target for criminals who are always in need of weapons.

The next time you visit a bank, just look at the attitude of the policeman on duty and then you will appreciate my point.

These days, he is either on WhatsApp or Facebook, with his weapon tucked somewhere providing fodder for the activities of criminals.

The habit of policemen quickly jumping into vehicles and ordering drivers to drive them to the station is equally a recipe for disaster.

Why on earth would you hop into a vehicle whose driver you don’t know and whose intentions you don’t know? What could be the motivation, since in most cases they never get to the station?

Then also is the critical issue of equipment. It is difficult to understand why a person tagged as a law enforcement officer will not have a pistol for his own defence or protection.

Whether in uniform or plain-clothed, all police officers are exposed to threats and must be adequately prepared for it.

In fact, a personal weapon must be part of the dress code of every police officer as is the case in most countries.

In addition, depending on the intensity of operations, other types of arms could be issued, as well as ancillaries such as helmets, bulletproof vests, fragmentation jackets etc.

Communication should also be top-notch at all times. An officer outside his base should be able to make contact with his station at the press of a button.

The newly introduced Global positioning system(GPS) should facilitate his location immediately. As much as practicable, police officers must operate in pairs. The days of one-man operations are long gone.

Perhaps what needs to be done immediately is a mop up of the free arms and ammunition in the system. Since the crisis in Libya, La Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, Sudan, etc., there has been a free flow of weapons circulating in the sub-region and Ghana has received her fair share of them.

Added to these is the indigenous small arms manufacturing industry. Though we pretend such an industry does not exist, it sure does (and our blacksmiths are improving their skills) and has served as a source of supply of weapons to criminals.

The dicey issue here is the question of survival.

The local blacksmith also has a family to feed.

Can we for instance register all these artisans under an umbrella and regulate their operations.

For instance, can their weapons have serial numbers and the identity of the buyer cleared by the police first? Such an exercise should take place concurrently throughout the country so that weapons cannot be moved from one region to another.

Clearly, the easy access to weapons embolden criminals.

Then also is the critical issue of ensuring that all police posts have some self-defence capabilities.

This will ensure that when a station is attacked, personnel will be able to defend the facility until reinforcements arrive from neighbouring stations under well-rehearsed drills.

It is only when we have done the above and even more that our prayers would be justified.

Let us not forget that we said prayers in the past for Ghana Airways when it was in distress and the cedi when it was depreciating.

We did same for the Akosombo Dam when the water receded as a result of drought. In all these we failed because the God we serve has said time and again that he only helps those who help themselves.