A couple of incidents that occurred recently paint a very unfortunate and disappointing picture of the Ghana Police Service. Two suspected armed robbers who attacked a bullion van in Donkorkrom in the Eastern Region were identified as Policemen. Then, two other Policemen were involved in a six-member car-snatching syndicate in Accra.
It may be recalled that in 2009, there was a proposed ‘Performance Re-engineering Policy’ by which policemen and women were moved to fit into the appropriate positions, on the merit of defensible criteria such as rank, qualification and competence. That was fair enough and the leadership of the Ghana Police Service was commended for the moral courage in taking the right steps, both big and small. The momentum was supposed to be maintained in the implementation of the policy in order to boost the morale of the men and women in the Ghana Police Service.
Meanwhile, all these efforts and initiatives notwithstanding, we woke up one morning to be hit with the news of a reported racket in a recruitment exercise almost about the same time. Maybe it will be impulsive to suggest that the happenings in the GPS are offshoots of the said racket, whereby certain undesirable characters had managed to enter the Service. We will not be surprised to learn that the suspects were among the batch connected with the botched recruitment exercise.
The Ghana Police Service is the source for ascertaining the background of certain categories of workers. It is therefore very surprising that the very organization that is responsible for issuing ‘Security Clearance’ has shot itself in the foot, by not being all that diligent in its recruitment exercise, lately. Enlisting more hands should not give cause to water down the laid-down procedures and good practices in the selection process. Stiffer screening of new recruits should be one of the things that can be done to avoid enlisting people with dubious backgrounds. It make some time to handle such tasks but it is worthwhile and very relevant and essential for future efficiency and integrity.
Again, in the spirit of ‘visibility’ and friendliness, all Policemen and women were to wear name tags and numbers, boldly on their chests. The idea was a means of redeeming the image of Service, and especially to curb corruption. For instance, Police personnel on Traffic duties collects a Driver’s licence or other documents, without identifying him/herself enough for the owner to follow up on his case with ease, or to retrieve the documents.
The wearing of name tags and other forms of identification is practised almost everywhere else in most countries now. At the moment, it appears that it is an option to wear the tags whereas a directive in a Security organization leaves no room for variance or doing as one pleases. Other Security Service personnel in Ghana continue to proudly wear their self-identification badges side-by-side their medals, if any. The Police must therefore be seen to fall in line once again. The benefits definitely outweigh the costs of anonymity.
The Police are supposed to be ‘friends’ and protectors of their fellow citizens and inhabitants of this nation. A friend is someone whom you can approach for help in times of diificulty. A friend is usually identified by the name and or pet-name. a ‘friendly’ Police portrays a human face behind an official uniform and works openly. On the contrary, ‘nameless’ Police personnel are prone to bring dishonour to an organization whose motto is “Service with integrity”.
A friendly Police will not take undue advantage of the weak and vulnerable and be trigger-happy. He/she is protective or somebody in whom people can confide. He/she should not pull the gun at the least opportunity, under the least provocation, because he/she knows the professional obligation is to protect the weak. However, when under threat of life, self-defence may be acceptable.
In these circustances, the Police Service should intensify its efforts at changing the attitudes of wayward personnel who carry their weapons at odd times and in to wrong places. There should be regular training programmes to refresh their skills, so that they can apply the various arms at their disposal to the defence of normally unarmed citizens. Control of weapons leaving the armoury, barracks and depots should be more rigid. The incidents of stray bullets killing or maiming innocent people will thereby be reduced, if not completely eliminated.
The public can co-operate better when they come upon delinquent Policemen and women. The name or number can be quoted to support other concrete evidence by people complaining about, or witnessing in cases of professional misconduct by the Police. This will also facilitate the work of the Police/Public Intelligence and Relations Department, rather than relying on identification parades that sometimes end up in a wild-goose-chase.
The ugly habit of people charging on Police Stations to ask for the release of suspects, vandalizing offices, equipment and vehicles will have stop. The average law-abiding Ghanaian should be prepared to assist members of the Ghana Police Service in fighting crime, corruption promoting law and order and delivering quality, disciplined service in protecting lives and property. The Inspector-General of Police may be reminded, in humility, that small things cost very little, or even nothing, but enhance the beauty of the anticipated bigger achievements, in this case, of restoring the Ghana Police Service to its honourable pedestal.
The bigger issues centre around stalled promotions, accommodation and non-financial related perquisites which shall, hopefully, be tackled in a systematic fashion, with the Strategic Directive Policy as a guide. Members of a satisfied and highly motivated Police corps will give of their best through diligent and honest work buttressed by sacrifice.
The Ghana Police Service administration should stay focused to the vision and high, challenging responsibilities entrusted to them. The ripple effect will trickle down to the remotest station in the country, and the people’s confidence will boost the needed mutual co-operation between the men and women of the Ghana Police Service and the citizenry.
ANTHONY KWEKU ANNAN