Two experts on security issues have called for radical reforms in the Ghana Police Service to enable it to become efficient and to salvage its badly dented public image, including the perception of being a narcotics institution.
A security consultant and Research Fellow at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre (KAIPTC), Dr Kwesi Ennin, and a lecturer at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ghana, Legon, Dr Raymond Atuguba, made the call in Accra when they delivered the national jubilee lectures on policing in Ghana.
According to them, the lack of administrative and political will to reform the service, since it was established 178 years ago, had contributed to its inefficiencies and, therefore, challenged the Police Council to exercise its constitutional mandate and initiate reforms.
Furthermore, the experts indicated that the inefficiencies of the police and the present lack of confidence in them by the public had compelled many people to take charge of their personal security, hence the rush to register guns, the high patronage of private security services and the frequent resort to mob justice.
They shared that platform with the Director-General of Legal and Special Duties of the Ghana Police Service, Commissioner of Police (COP) George Asiamah, who represented the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mr Patrick Kwarteng Acheampong.
The IGP and the Minister of the Interior, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah, could not attend the much publicised event, which took place at the Police Headquarters, and their absence, according to the organisers, was due to other engagements.
The lectures were organised by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), in conjunction with the Ghana Police Service, on the theme, “Reflections on 50 years of post-independence policing in Ghana: Assessing its impact on democratic governance, the rule of law and protection of human rights”.
Among the large audience who patronised the event were three former IGPs, Messrs C. K. Dewornu, J. Y. A. Kwofie and Peter Nanfuri, as well as the former First Lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, and the security fraternity.
In a very frank and hard-talk approach, Dr Ennin and Dr Atuguba conducted a clinical study on the Ghana Police Service to lay bare the symptoms of its inefficiencies and prescribed remedies for salvaging it.
Discussing the topic, “Policing in Ghana at 50: Successes and challenges”, Dr Ennin described the Ghana Police Service as an institution in crisis, saying it would require prudence, fairness and firmness from all police personnel to redeem the service from that situation.
According to him, reports from international sources indicated that Ghana was awash with narcotics but the more disturbing issue was the perceived involvement of some police personnel in the narcotics business.
Buttressing his assertion, Dr Ennin said since January 5, 2007, every newspaper in the country had reported stories about the involvement of the police in the narcotics business.
He said in order to transform the service, there was the need to review its mission statement, organisational structure and functions, as well as address the resource constraints to enable it to perform creditably.
Dr Ennin made reference to some recommendations made by the Archer Committee set up in 1996 to investigate the challenges facing the Ghana Police Service but expressed regret that those recommendations had not been implemented, a decade after they had been made.
He cited one of the recommendations which called for an increase in the number of police personnel to 25,000 but noted that as of 2007 the staff strength of the police stood at 17,000.
Dr Ennin said the police should be responsive to the needs of individuals, be accountable to the law and ethics, protect the human rights of the people, be transparent in their activities and consider democratic policing as a bottom-up approach, instead of a top-down approach.
He urged the police to focus more on sophisticated crimes such as banking and financial fraud which were normally committed by highly-educated people.
Taking his turn on the topic, “Policing and police reforms in the next 50 years: Looking ahead”, Dr Atuguba challenged the Police Council to execute its constitutional mandate of reforming the Ghana Police Service without fear, pledging the support of civil society organisations to that cause.
“The Police Council must rise and walk,” he said, instead of holding routine meetings and discussing the removal of the IGP or who should become the next IGP.
Dr Atuguba said there could be no effective policing unless the approach was about the people, of the people, by the people and for the people.
He stressed the need for the active engagement of the community in policing, since it played a critical role in the promotion of security.
On that basis, Dr Atuguba disagreed with the suggestion to increase the number of police personnel and pointed out that instead, the number should be reduced, arguing that the police were only meant to facilitate security.
He said the primary purpose of policing was to enable the citizens to go about their activities freely and live in peace and security, not basically to fight crime.
Dr Atuguba argued that fighting crime was only a consequence of the police's primary function of ensuring peace and security, adding, “Therefore, if in the course of fighting crime, the police trampled on the peace and security of the people, it had failed in its responsibility.”
He observed that although change was a positive development, some people were impervious to it because they were used to the status quo or had a vested interest in it.
According to Dr Atuguba, the cost of not undertaking reform was that the police was lagging behind and that had resulted in the mushrooming of private security agencies, vigilante groups and land guards who were feeding on the loopholes in the service to provide various forms of security for the people.
He condemned the reaction of the police to such security providers, albeit they were illegal, and instead recommended them to the police to learn from their good practices.
For his part, COP Asiamah traced the history of the Ghana Police Service from the colonial era to the time of independence and the post-independence period.
He said the new vision of the service was to become a world-class police institution dedicated to democratic principles.
In a speech read on his behalf, Mr Kan-Dapaah said there was the need to look at the challenges and achievements of the police over the years in order to determine the way forward.
Story by Kofi Yeboah