Growing up in the village, there was one thing that every stubborn debtor was afraid of. I know you’re probably guessing something as scary as a writ of summons or a towering and unfriendly debt collector, well you’re wrong. In the village, the policeman is the debt collector and most often than not it is same in the city.
The fact that this tactic works most of the time sounds great, if only we were living in a banana republic. In a country like Ghana with a constitution and a myriad of laws guiding every aspect of social life, using the police to intimidate debtors is illegal and potentially criminal.
Wait, but aren’t the police meant to be law enforcers?. One would expect that a law enforcer not only know the law but take every opportunity to educate people about it right?. Just recently, a blogger writing with ghsplash.com was arrested, handcuffed and paraded on national television (UTV) for writing a story about the actor and comedian Kwadwo Nkansah popularly known as Lil Win, which he claims was false therefore reporting the case to the Tesano police station which then led to her unfortunate arrest. Now how lawful was that? If indeed the story was false then that could be morally wrong and maybe tantamount to defamation. But what does the law say?,
The current president of Ghana, H.E. Nana Akufo-Addo, during his tenure as the Attorney general in the Kuffour administration led the repeal of the Libel law, therefore decriminalizing the act. So in effect no one can be arrested for writing false or inaccurate news about anyone. It is therefore sad that the very people who should know and uphold the law, paraded evidence of their ignorance on national TV. Imagine the number that go unnoticed and the hours and days people have had to stay in stinking police cells for something not even remotely criminal.
This is not to say the entire police service is ignorant, there are very knowledgeable people in the service. The problem is most of those are in the offices, pushing papers or guarding the higher-ups in society. Those that represent the service and have direct contact with the people are the ones from whom the publics perception of the police is formed and therefore must be the best in the service, be knowledgeable of the law or at least be able to distinguish between a civil case and a criminal one.
Unfortunately, some of the ones shipped off to deal with the public are as ignorant as some of the people they police. They’re the ones riding in town on bikes without helmet, seizing driving Licenses, intimidating debtors, collecting bribes and arresting civilians for non-criminal acts.
This of course brings to question the quality of training recruits receive and the criteria for passing out. Ghana is a country of laws, but our problem is with enforcement and the enforcers.
The Way forward for the service
1. The Ghana Police service has become one of the ways politicians appease their followers. They’ve created a backdoor recruitment system where their ‘Protocol List’ make it to the service ahead of deserving applicants.
Some of these backdoor recruits barely goes through any training and most often are at liberty to act with impunity because they know a big man who will come to their rescue.
So if such backdoors and protocol lists would be done away with, then there would be a real chance of recruiting educated and highly trained professionals into the service who would uphold the tenets of the law and most importantly, abide by it themselves.
2. The best and brightest recruits must be the ones interacting with the people on a daily basis. Shipping off the ‘dead heads’ to the streets as the face of the police to the people only exacerbates the already precarious relationship between Police and the people.
3. The police service must stop protecting its officers who blatantly break the law. There have been instances where police officers who took the law into their own hands have been shielded from facing the law all in the name of keeping up morale.
4. The Ghana Police service has been first in almost every corruption perception report that is issued and obviously, bribery and corruption is a serious crime and canker in the Country.
To curtail this with modern technology, equipping each police officer in uniform with a body camera which records his every interaction while on duty and also making it a right of every citizen to film any officer in uniform seen to be breaking the law. In the past, officers who were being filmed have either seized and arrested those filming them or broken gadgets being used to film them in the act.
5. Police brutality and intimidation is real, it seems the ordinary Ghanaian when given a piece of the Authority which belongs originally to the people, tries to use it against the very people who have entrusted them with their power. On several counts, police officers have intimidated and brutalized people and given some of the silliest of excuses for their actions. The police service of course protects their own and nothing ever comes out of it unless the victim also knows a big man or is financially strong to pursue legal redress. So going back to my third point, the police service must first clean its act before it can have the moral right to enforce the law.
In ending, there’s a palpable distrust of the police by the people and its justifiable looking at some of the points raised herein.
Every Police officer must know that the disdain they receive from the public is as a result of their deeds and unfortunately, some officers have had to pay with their lives.
We have seen repraisal attacks on police by citizens without hesitation and although unfortunate and must be condemned, for the most part, the police brought it on themselves. Let’s make Ghana police live up to its own ideals, Service with ‘integrity’.