A group of police officers, drawn from various stations in Ghana has described the prevailing method of police training in the country as inadequate and so cannot effectively combat sophisticated crime.
Speaking on behalf of 63 other colleagues at the end of a basic police skills training course in Accra yesterday, Chief Superintendent Mina Ayim said there was the lack of basic practical police skills training at the recruit, intermediate and in-service levels.
She said instead of communication skills and rescue techniques, which reinforce the core functions of protecting life and property, too much emphasis had been placed on areas such as parade and fatigue, adding that those two areas did not impart any direct skills that police officers would need in their day-to-day duties such as arrests, patrols, searches, responding to distress calls and protecting crime scenes.
Among the listeners were the Minister of the Interior, Mr Albert Kan-Dapaah; the Inspector General of Police, Mr Patrick Acheampong, and the US Ambassador to Ghana, Ms Pamela Bridgewater.
She said that weapon instructions had not been structured and organised on the same level as drill and classroom instruction.
Public anger has been mounting in recent times against the police for shooting incidents that have claimed civilian lives in Taifa, Dansoman and lately Kotobabi.
“It has been realised that the expertise of weapon instructors has not been harnessed to motivate them. Weapon instruction at the basic level and even at the cadet level forms only five per cent of the total training period for trainees,” she said.
Chief Supt Ayim, who was also the course leader, said that the police had, of late, come under heavy public criticism as a result of the problems associated with the use of force.
Deadly force and police brutality in the form of manhandling of suspects and even innocent persons, she added, were issues that were of much concern to the public.
She called for a new training programme to address the shortfalls.
In an address, Mr Kan-Dapaah said the government would relentlessly pursue all efforts to empower the Ghana Police Service, both in terms of training and logistics, to enable them to play the important role required of them in fostering democracy in the country.
The minister stated that policing was one of the most complex and difficult tasks in any society, stressing that it was much more difficult to police in a democracy such as existed in Ghana.
Quoting Otwin Marinen, an acknowledged authority on policing, the Minister said the authority and disposition of the police were founded on law, yet the police retained significant discretion as to when and how to apply the law.
He said the police needed to be responsive to public demands for service and protection, yet must resist if such demands were to violate the constitutionally protected rights of individuals and groups.
Mr Kan-Dapaah added that the police were granted a degree of professional autonomy as individuals and organisations, and yet must remain accountable to societal norms and democratically elected representatives.
“Many police activities violate conventional societal norms yet are necessary to satisfy public demands for order, safety and well-being", he pointed out.
Therefore, the minister said "In short, the police must balance legitimate but conflicting values and rights; demand for effectiveness with protection of individual rights and maintain public order without unduly restricting liberty.
They must also not threaten or use force without deviating into abuse and be guided by law and professional expertise simultaneously.
He urged the police to protect the gains the nation had made and guard it into the future.
For his part, Mr Acheampong said it was very expensive to arrange training courses, adding that the total national budget for the police for the year could not meet all the requirements for training for the various ranks.
In that regard, he asked for support from foreign governments and thanked the United States government for sponsoring the course.
Ms Bridgewater, on her part, said Ghana was making strides in reducing petty corruption and the use of force in the Police Service as well as enhancing their respect for human rights, and added that officials in Washington had taken notice of that.