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14.10.2005 General News

Conference on policing opens

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Accra, Oct. 14, GNA - Mr Sam Okudzeto, former President of the Ghana Bar Association, on Friday suggested that the Police Administration should include character reference in the recruitment process into Police Service to avoid recruiting criminals.

He said very often, some personnel with criminal background found their way into the service and because the interviewing process lacked character reference, such people were not identified and eliminated. Speaking at the opening of a two-day regional conference on; "Police Accountability: the Africa Region" in Accra, Mr Okudzeto, currently Chairman, International Advisory Commission of the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI), said the Police as the most important pivot in the democratic process of any nation, needed both the assistance of the citizens and the government to function better. However, he stressed, there must be willingness on the part of the Police, especially the leadership, to reform to changes that might help them improve upon their services.

He said personnel must learn about the rights and freedoms of the citizens they protected to avoid situation where officers felt they were being challenged when citizens insisted on their rights. Mr Okudzeto said because of the inadequacies of the personnel, citizens often perceived the Police as enemies rather than friends due to the fact that their rights were most of the time trampled upon. Participants from Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, South Africa and India are attending the conference. CHRI's 2005 Report on "Police Accountability: Too Important to Neglect, Too Urgent to Delay" was launched on Thursday.

Nana Oye Lithur, Coordinator, Africa Office of CHRI, said the conference would enable participants to deliberate on policing in Africa within a proper context of the African Peer Review Mechanism and NEPAD. Madam Clare Doube, coordinator in charge of Planning and Programmes, CHRI, said at the end of the conference, participants would come out with a statement on necessary reforms and suggestions, which would be presented to the meeting of the Commonwealth Law Ministers, starting on October 17 in Accra.

She said the Law Ministers would in turn present their paper at the close of their meeting to Heads of State of the Commonwealth at a meeting to be held in November, which would help improve on general policing in the Commonwealth. Nana Owusu-Nsiah, Immediate Past IGP, said undue political influence on the Police must be done away with since it undermined their work.

He also called on African governments to provide resources to their Police and also ensure a safe and serene atmosphere that would enable police to function effectively. "The public must also respect the rule of law and democratic values and principles pertaining in their countries," Nana Owusu-Nsiah insisted.