26.05.2003 Feature Article

A Message To Ghana's Police Chief

A Message To Ghana's Police Chief
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The post-colonial Ghana’s Police service has for generations not been the respectable service organization that serves the people of Ghana. Most of us have known the police to either care very little, or serves only as instruments of domination, bribery and corruption, and arbitrariness in the society we call our home in Ghana. We can change this mindset if we all work together, share ideas, and the police realize that they only exist and get paid to serve the legitimate interests of the people whose tax money pays them. On Friday, May 23, 2003 8:54 PM, we received en email message from [email protected], written by Emmanuel Ofori, President/Project Director, which read: “Ghana's Police chief will be arriving in the States to share the problems and strategy on crime prevention in Ghana. It will take place at the Embassy of Ghana Chancery in Washington, DC on May 31, 2003, from 10 a. m - 2 p m. I will email you all the details next week Tuesday. This is an opportunity for us to share ideas and hear from the Police Chief. Some of you might not make it but will appreciate if you could pass on the information to people on your mailing list who might have interest.” As the years pass bye, some of us have lost interest in meeting Ghanaian personalities simply for talking, speeches, partying, drinking and fun, without any ideas that they take home to implement. I hope this will be a worthwhile meeting and not one as we have seen in the past decades and years. I personally sent a message to Mr. Ofori to be delivered to the Chief of Police, and hereby put this on record as our concerns and expectations for the service we call Police service in Ghana. This may represent the views of the thousands of Ghanaians and friends of Ghana scattered all across North America, some 3,000 miles plus wide, who may not be able to attend the said meeting: 1. ARBITRARY RULES THAT HURT MORE THAN HELP: A few years ago we read in the press that the Police Chief made a Law in Ghana or Regulation that there should be no window tinting of cars. The reason given was that cars with window tinting allow criminals to escape. This rationale was, to some of us, the most illogical rationale, and presupposes that the individual human beings in Ghana driving cars that sometimes exceed the salaries of ten or more officials are all criminals, and hence no other consideration is needed. This decision was not based on the well established scientific need and benefits of car window tinting. For anybody who may not know: (1) Window tinting reduces the sun’s rays in a car, and hence energy (petrol) needed for air conditioning, especially in a hot climate like Ghana and Africa; (2) Window tinting reduces the sun’s rays on the human skin, which UV rays are know to cause skin cancer. The black skin is not immune to skin cancer, as may be known from the reported cause of death of first Premier Kwame Nkrumah. The Police in Ghana cannot assume that half or even one hundredth of drivers in Ghana are criminals. Such rules therefore do not make sense in Ghana, and should be abolished. Those of us who studied Science and know these things feel that such laws make Ghana a subject of ridicule around the world. It makes the men and women who make such rules seem to the outside world as a bunch of illiterates who feel they have power over every person in Ghana. The police must never forget that they are hired by the people of Ghana who pay their salaries. Wherein lies the individual freedom as spelled out in the Constitution of our people!! We will appreciate it if the Honorable Police Chief will see to eliminate such laws and regulations immediately upon return home. 2. POLICE PAY and IMAGES OF CORRUPTION: Ghana Police has been known to accept and take bribery in the open. Nobody can deny this. It was there in the 1950s and 1960s, and it is so today! We also know that police men and women are among the most poorly paid, some as low as C80,000 or less than $10 per month. How can a nation survive by paying its Law Enforcement personnel as ridiculously low wages, and expect them to provide honest service! The police must be paid a minimum of a survival wages, which number should be obtained from the Minister of Finance (if such Ministers are doing their job as expected). There should be no compromise on this, and if the budget for the Police cannot sustain this survival wages, then the service personnel should be cut according to any society and town’s ability to pay. We must learn as a society to cut our coat according the services we desire. 3. DECENTRALIZATION OF THE POLICE: To meet the above purpose, there should be a decentralization of the Police in Ghana. The centralization of police services serves no useful purpose, and has helped to create the lack of management and lack of discipline, as well as poor service which are not responsive to the needs of different communities. One would expect communities like East Legon or McCarthy Hills, or Madina, as suburbs of Accra, or some remote areas in Ghana, with sizable population, to have their own police service which should be reachable by police immediately there is a crisis. As such the only way for the police to provide such services adequately to meet the needs of that community, which pays taxes, is for the decentralization of the police service. The Local or District Police chief can still serve under the National or Central Police Chief, if need be to start, but must respond to the needs of the particular police district, who must derive his /her pay from the community. There are more one can write about the service, but this should serve as the expectations that some of us have of that government department in law enforcement. Ghana cannot expect to have the international standards of respectable law enforcement, and a society that is ripe for to participate in the competitive global market for major investment, until there is a general feeling of security. In 2001 there were reported cases of armed robberies of families who had arrived from overseas in the affluent East Legon area of Accra the capital of Ghana. The fear and net impact of such negative news may not be measurable immediately. However, it can justifiably be predicted to affect the number of people who may have changed their minds about returning home or investing money in Ghana. We cannot afford such news if we want to compete in the global village of the 21 st century. I am sure the Police chief will not make his travel to Washington DC a mere site seeing and shopping trip to earn some per diem, as some officials in the past decades have demonstrated as their primary selfish interest. We welcome him to America. Sincerely, Kwaku A. Danso Fremont, California, USA. (May 25, 2003)

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