Dr Raymond Atuguba, Law Lecturer at the University of Ghana, Legon has admonished personnel of the Ghana Police Service (GPS) to humble themselves and learn the skills of policing from the private security services, community vigilante groups and landgaurds.
He noted that the work of policing had over the past 50 years far outgrown the capabilities of the GPS and the advent of legally established institutions like the private security organization and the illegal policing bodies like the vigilante groups and landgaurds were clear signs of the inability of the GPS to provide effective policing.
Dr Atuguba made the remark during the National Jubilee Lectures on Policing in Ghana, jointly organized by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) and the GPS.
The lecture was designed to reflect on 50 years of post independence policing in Ghana and to assess its impact on democratic governance, the rule of law and protection of human rights.
Speaking on the topic: "Policing and Police Reforms in the next 50 years - Looking ahead", he observed that the challenge of policing had over he years grown with population growth, infrastructural development, technological advancement, community expansion among others, but that the GPS had kept to their colonial mission of intimidating the populace instead of rising to the occasion to provide adequate protection and safety.
"The primary purpose of policing is to provide safety for the people and therefore policing should more than anything else be community based," he said.
Dr Atuguba noted that the police had failed in providing community policing and that had led to the rise of private security organizations, which provided effective policing for homes and communities and the vigilante groups and landgaurds who might be regarded as illegitimate, but provided effective policing services for those who paid.
He said to the extent that people felt the need to employ the services of private security organization, vigilante groups and landgaurds, was a clear sign of a void in policing as a whole and that people did not feel adequately protected by the police.
"There is a need for a radical change and reform in the GPS to ensure that the GPS rises to the challenge of policing in our country today and that change must begin with the GPS submitting itself to learn from the vigilante groups, landgaurds and private security agencies," he said.
Dr Atuguba asked the police bosses to be submissive enough to dialogue with the other security groups, legal and illegal and learn about the void that they (the other security groups) fill, saying that it would help the police to catch up with the work of policing.
"In any case most to the private security agencies are either owned or managed by ex-police and military offices, who identified the void in policing and therefore established private agencies to fill the void".
He said in the past he moderated such a meeting once and in the end the police took undue advantage of the situation and killed a member of a vigilante group, adding that he also did a research among junior police officers across the country and those who spoke their hearts out about the ills in the Service were later victimized by their bosses, even though they were promised not to be victimized for sharing their candid opinions.
"Such an attitude and culture in the GPS is the reason for its current extinct state, making it largely unable to live up to the challenges of 21st century policing," he said.
Dr Atuguba noted that since 1829 there had not been any radical transformation in the GPS except in 1948, when the colonial master turned the Service, then Ghana Police Force (GPF), into a brutish organization to intimidate agitating Ghanaians.
"Till date we still have a police force that is largely brutish and unprofessional with more focus on fighting crime and hunting down cocaine and other drug dealers more than providing protection in our communities," he said.
He said for policing to be effective it must be democratic and in that sense it must be about the people, of the people, by the people and for the people.
Dr Atuguba condemned what he called the GPS's close alliance with the elite in society at the expense of the masses, saying that the Service was too close to politicians, the major business organization like banks and foreign security organizations, all of whom seemed to privately call the shots in the GPS.
He suggested that to the extent that the GPS had become a governance institution other than just a public service, the failures of the Service was a failure in governance and the responsibility of reforming it to provide effective policing was in the purview of the state.