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26.06.2020 Feature Article

Caught Between Two Brutalities: Police Or Gangs

Caught Between Two Brutalities: Police Or Gangs
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During the time when Mental Hospitals around the world had mental patients admitted, there were violent ones among them, even assaulting their caregivers that had to be restrained on a daily basis by health and mental workers without guns. Can anyone, anywhere imagine these violent mental patients being shot or killed during those restraints?

Police must be trained as part of a team deescalating volatile or violent situations, not shooting their way through the homeless or demonstrators in a split second. There is no community where that type of aggressive confrontation can be justified against children, youths or young men because the lives of Africans matter less at home or abroad.

No matter where we are at home or overseas, the color of your skin should not be promoting split seconds decisions as if Police are facing devil reincarnation in a war zone overseas or give "shoot on sight" order at home against unarmed civilian demonstrators as OBJ once did in Lagos. How often have we seen split second decisions or Police in war riot gear in white neighborhoods unless someone called for sighting a black skin?

If Police can only handle violent and aggressive situations, there must be fewer of them so equipped when such situations arise so trained personnel can defuse the situation. Mental Health and Social workers must be funded to deal with the same situations they faced in the old mental institutions. The difference would be dealing with outpatients instead of in-patients.

Yaba Left is a common phrase or joke in Lagos today but it was a full Mental Hospital. In the late 70s and early 80s, the world moved away from keeping mental patients in the institutions. Many mental patients increased the number of homeless people that were not common in African countries then. Unfortunately, they became targets for Police brutality including shootings, especially in the so called advanced countries. What is even worse is that blacks that already suffer from Police brutality even when they are sane became most of the victims disproportionately.

Africans must demonstrate to the world a new form of community policing practice by skilled Policewomen (welfare) in those days. Rather than going out of Africa to learn how to abuse blacks, mental patients and demonstrators on the streets with police dogs. Policing must be reimagined to include Social and Mental workers within the Police departments or Welfare Officers funded separately from Police budgets.

How can the so-called civilized communities be forced to resign either to the brutality of devious gangs taking advantage of demonstrations or extremists that have infiltrated our constituted authorities expected to serve and protect us? It must not be a choice between a rock or a hard place, fry pan or fire, do or die. It is a cry for justice and peace for decent and civilized people, no matter how rich or poor. They just deserve to live in peace and harmony. We must face the fact that the world was more civilized with less vanities that breed crimes and gangs than we are today. Modernization is not the same as civilized communities.

In order to tarnish the reputation of hard working police officers and peaceful demonstrators; gangs, militias and hate groups are trying whatever they can, disguised within legal authorities to kill our choice. There are thugs in every community seeking legitimacy by presenting themselves as peace lovers and enforcers of law and order. Some drug dealers even open food banks to attract the poor and recruits.

However, bias is difficult to cure by training alone. Privilege is difficult to give up. After all, educated folks and trainers like the one that kneeled on Floyd's neck to death, have their own biases. There are cultural and systemic biases cutting across racial and ethnic groups that are manifested in the training of our children from primary to high schools into law enforcement and colleges. Youths and children throughout the world have come out in all colors rejecting the obvious "good old days" privilege that disenfranchised and oppressed the poor. We must make changes while this George Floyd shock still rocks most conscience repulsively.

When black police officers have to sue their own departments because of racial harassment by fellow officers abroad or some brave police officers that came out and testified to lawmakers at home about maintaining their own vehicles and contributing bribes to Oga at the Top; we know the head is rotten from the top down. It has to be corrected from the ground up.

We cannot discount the fact that cannibals and ritualists have invaded our peaceful coexistence for notoriety and personal aggrandizement. We always hear about the brutalities, maiming and killing by militias. Unfortunately inside constituted authorities also. Some people had cried out that the Police were providing cover and protecting undesirable elements in the communities. But it took phone videos to bring these atrocities into our senses. Those who live by the swords die by the sword.

In most African countries, it is difficult to tell the difference between Police and political thugs. When you groom thugs during elections against your opponents and their supporters, it becomes difficult to curb their atrocious behavior after elections. Some of them ride the waves and coattails of their sponsors into local appointed offices and some elected offices. We as Africans are very familiar with brutal military dictators changing uniforms to become civilian politicians (militricians).

Contrary to what our "educated" parents told us because of their overseas exposure, the same inhumanity that exists in Africa can be worse for Africans in Diaspora. When our Youths give up on us to risk the desert and sea hoping against hope for a better life outside Africa, it is an indictment of our present-day managers. We and those looking for cheap educated labor glamorize outsiders and demonize our own. By the time the Youths find out the reality, their heads are already on the chopping blocks for body parts or they are too ashamed to admit the nightmares abroad. A few cried for help back home if they could escape or hide to make calls.

Farouk Martins Aresa
Farouk Martins Aresa, © 2020

The author has 555 publications published on Modern Ghana.Column: FaroukMartinsAresa

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