Last Saturday and today (Friday, November 30, 2018) are supposed to be days set aside by the Police Administration to celebrate Police Week aimed at building stronger partnerships with the public. According to ACP David Eklu, the week, the first in the history of the service, “forms part of the transformation agenda which seeks to ensure excellent policing and also change the perception of the public about the police service”.
This certainly is a brilliant idea but not novel since the service itself has in time past accepted that between the police and the civil society, there has always been a cow-dung type of relations and some efforts had been made to build the trust and confidence between the two. No matter what the situation is, the civil society will still depend on the Police Service for our safety and security just as without the civil society, the relevance of the service would diminish.
Sadly, efforts in the past by the service have not yielded the needed trust and cooperation from the civil society generally. A whole book can be written on why the relationship between the two groups has been what it is even though we need each other at all times. We should not forget that the police officer is simply a civilian in police uniforms with special training to protect the society, while the civilian is simply a police officer on leave or on retirement.
While discussing the relationship between the service and the civilian population as a means of improving excellent relations that will enhance policing in the most effective manner, it is important to draw the attention of the service itself to its internal policies and programmes which engender professionalism and humanism in the work of the police officer.
Just last Tuesday, the Daily Guide reported a story which could be considered as the first of its kind – that a senior police officer has had the care to pay personal visits to some police officers, who are suffering from one ailment or the other and in some cases officers who got injured on duty as a result of which they can no longer perform their official duties and had been abandoned by the Ghana Police Service.
According to the publication, the Director-General in charge of welfare in the Police Service, Dr. George Akuffo Dampare “has undertaken visits to dejected police officers who, as a result of their health conditions, are unable to work”. Some of the officers he visited, according to the report, are officers who had sustained injuries on duty protecting the society.
That this singular act of Director-General Dampare drew tears from the eyes of some of the officers he visited is an indication that the service until now had abandoned its own when they are in dire need of attention and care. There are drowned voices of police officers who have been abandoned, virtually used and dumped when they have been confronted with such problems in the course of their duties.
In some cases, they are evicted from their not-too-good official residences and left to their fate. One of such 'abandoned' officers is reported to have said “who am I for a commissioner to visit me in my house just to check up on me and find out what can be done about my condition?” Another is reported to have said “my heart will be full of joy and happiness even if I die now because of your visit”. Is this not sad?
It is still sad to relate that accommodation for our security personnel generally in this country is the worst compared to other public officers who are accommodated by the state. In the early 1960s, when I was growing up in Effiakuma No 1, the Railway Quarters we lived in was so close to the Police Barracks in the whole of Effiakuma. There was a very beautiful football pitch where we used to play, including the primary schools of Arch Bishop Porter A, B and later on STCC Primary Schools.
These structures were built with mud or what used to be called 'atapkame'. They were plastered with some thin layer of cement by the colonial masters when the Railways and the Harbour were being constructed to house workers and the police. Sixty years after independence and the growing challenges of the police service and its personnel, officers of the service still occupy these buildings, which have suffered serious erosions and are just hanging. They do not even have decent toilet facilities and bathhouses for the personnel.
This is just one example of the very parlous conditions of accommodation for our policemen and women throughout the country. In fact, many of the sentry posts for police officers stationed at the residences of public officers are far better than the homes where they live. For nothing at all, they have toilets with constant flow of water.
Again, last week, the wives of police officers in the Central Region made a passionate appeal to the state to offer their husbands better accommodation since their places of abode are, to say the least, very dehumanizing and too poor to even raise decent and disciplined children. The call is obviously the voice and concerns of all the wives of police officers throughout the country. I do not know why the husbands of female police officers did not join. My only conjecture is that the husbands of female police officers rent decent apartments and live with them.
They even complained of the uniforms and shoes their husbands wear daily for their official duties. They see their husbands very unkempt and unattractive to them in their official dresses. The story of Nana Ampadu's 'ye wee nsa a, wose shirt' comes to play. The women are not comfortable with the official outlook of their husbands relative to the public outlook of other public officers. The psychological state of a person is a major determinant in his work output and relations with his publics at any given point in time.
Some of these major material deficiencies in the lives of our police officers account for the poor perception of the public about the police service. If on their own, they have to improve their personal relations with the public; then they have to do something extraordinary to raise monies to procure that acceptable image of their individual selves. Do you know what they do? Some of them have become beggars without scruples. I give out something out of pity.
Others feel so angry with the society they are risking their lives to protect because of the very obvious gap between them and the civil populace. In my view, any efforts at changing the perception of the public about the police must begin with the service itself, treating the staff well and with dignity. The police officer must walk with chest out and self–respect. Besides, the officer must have the knowledge that should anything bad happen to him or her, the service is solidly ready to stand by him or her.
A distraught, disfigured and dispirited police officer lacks the self-esteem and confidence to deal respectfully with a member of the public in a manner that will exact some respect and trust from the civilian. The only power the police officer has, in the absence of the requisite discipline and self-confidence, is his worn-out uniform and torn footwear. Let us deal with the material needs of our police officers and they will act as professionals and win the trust of the civil populace.
Daavi, my three tots only.
By Kwesi Biney
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