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31.03.2006 General News

Police should be taken off traffic control duties - Atuguba

By GNA

Accra, March 31, GNA - Dr Raymond Atuguba, Executive Director of Legal Resources Centre, has recommended that the police should be taken off their traffic control and debt collections roles, and given improved service conditions, as major fundamental steps in reforming the Service.

He suggested that the traffic control functions of the police should be given to the Driver and Vehicle licensing Authority (DVLA), another state institution, arguing that those functions were related. Dr Atuguba called the measures a shock therapy to drive the police into consciousness, reduce arrogance, public discomfort and corruption, and for the police to realize that, they were not all that powerful, not indispensable and to work to continuously to justify their continuous relevance.

He made the suggestion in a paper presented at a public discussion on reforming the Ghana Police Service, organized by the Institute of Economic Affairs, a think-tank organization, in Accra on Thursday. The presentation, which underscored the role of the police in national safety and security, discarded any fresh studies into the problems of the police, and championed a consolidation of the many study recommendations, and a further public debate like that done on the National Health Insurance Scheme.

Dr Atuguba traced the history of the Ghana Police Service, from the colonial days, saying, the "DNA", the genetic characteristics of the police to offer protection for the political class, for the exploitation of natural resources, and enforcement of the rule of law for various political, economic and social ends remained the same. He stated that the police had been used to deal with personal and party issues, and had been used for the enforcement of the Criminal Libel Law under the erstwhile government of the National Democratic Congress; and the Public Order Act under the current political administration of the New Patriotic Party.

Dr Atuguba, who is also a Lecturer in Law at the University of Ghana, suggested that all reform efforts were nationalized and consolidated, and their agenda must be functional and include management, performance and productivity issues.

"The tragedy of police reform has partly been because of the dissection of the issues and consequential narrow focus of the reformist, because of their particular agenda, carried out by human rights, governance and civil society groups," Dr Atuguba said.

He suggested that a Change Management Team, with a former Inspector General of Police (IGP) should lead the proposals and implementation of the reforms, adding that, the team should dissolve after the reforms.

Mr Peter Nanfuri, former IGP, who chaired the discussion, had disagreed that the police were debt collecting agents, stating such illegal operations attracted punishment, but Mr Kwamena Ahwoi, former Minister of Local Government, pointed out that the police had been used for such under the veil of fraud cases, and referred to traffic regulation duties among the police as "Gold Mine" and bank duties as "desert".

Mr Ahwoi said the end results of the police reforms must clearly be defined, and called for a decentralization of authority, and empowerment of the Regional Commanders without always seeking clearance from the IGP.

The police should also be effectively policed, he said. Dr Benjamin Kumbour, Member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Defence and the Interior, called for the harmonisation of all laws on the Police Service in Ghana.

Chief Supt. Victor Tandoh, Commanding Officer of the Motor Traffic and Transport Unit, said there was the need for care to be taken when taking the police off the streets, because of additional security they offered the public.

He asked for improved service conditions and logistics support for the police, saying that, they tended to be overworked because one policeman cares for 1,100 people instead of 500. Chief Supt. Tandoh said, when the police realised people were ignorant, they played on them, and called on people in authority to interfere with the work of the police.

Prof. Henrietta Mensa-Bonsu, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Ghana, urged Parliament to engage the Police Council in reforming the Service, adding that, the general Ghanaian society should be held responsible for any corruption in the Service. The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative in a statement called for the formulation of a National Policy on Policing that would inculcate the centrality of human rights to everyday police work, with a particularly well functioning public complaint's unit.

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