President J. A. Kufuor has described police responsibility to society as awesome and cautioned against the rampant shooting of civilians in some parts of the country lately.
Absolving himself from prejudicing the outcome of ongoing investigations into recent shooting incidents which resulted in the death of some civilians and fuelled public outrage against the police, President Kufuor cautioned the service personnel to exhibit sound judgement and competence in the handling of weapons, even in the application of force.
He said as a law enforcement agency, such qualities were required of the police to be able to maintain the confidence of the public.
The President was speaking at the 39th Cadet Officers Graduation ceremony at the Ghana Police College at Tesano in Accra.
The ceremony was held in the wake of alleged mishandling of weapons by some policemen, including the tragic incident of April last year when Lance Corporal Ben Azagisnaba allegedly killed Mr John Tereku, a 43-year-old mechanical engineer, while the victim was resting in his hotel room in Sunyani.
A more bloody incident horrified the nation on April 21, 2006 when a police patrol team allegedly shot and killed four occupants of a taxi in Dansoman also in Accra, apparently mistaking them for armed robbers.
At Kotobabi in Accra last week, another policeman allegedly shot and killed Isaac Tetteh Nartey, a resident of the area.
The Police Administration has instituted inquiries into the two latest incidents.
“Without prejudicing the outcome of the ongoing investigations into recent rampant shootings in some parts of the country, I should caution that the police must always be mindful of their awesome responsibilities towards the society,” the President said.
He had some words of praise for the police and said the expectation of the society was high for peace officers to be responsible for the enforcement of law and order and that was why the success of the police in stemming the spate of armed robbery, as well as the apprehension of drug pushers, had been received with general acclamation.
The President also entreated the public to appreciate the demanding job of the police and in their own interest offer the Police Service the needed support for it to be effective.
“In this regard, undue influence must not be exercised on service personnel through friends, relations and family members to settle scores and do things which will compromise the image of the service or do things which are beyond their line of duty,” President Kufuor advised.
He, however, commended sections of the public which had, through diverse ways, provided clues to the police which had led to some arrests and urged others to emulate the example.
He said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government had committed itself to the modernisation and expansion of the Ghana Police Service and that had manifested in the number of intake to the college, which had always been higher than the preceding batch, the increased quality of cadet officers and the development of a new curriculum which addressed the challenges of modern policing.
President Kufuor said the rest included the training of instructors and trainers of the police abroad and the support from veteran police training instructors from the USA, France and the United Kingdom.
To modernise and make the service effective, he charged the Police Council to initiate the process of revising the Police Service Act of 1970, Act 350, and its various regulations to reflect the changes enumerated in the Fourth Republican Constitution and other laws made by Parliament to govern public order, police practices and procedures.
The President was sad that many of the vehicles and equipment provided by the government within the last four years had “already broken down, largely due to misuse and poor maintenance”.
He said as part of moves by the government to explore ways of adding to the stock of police equipment and materials, the Indian Exim Bank credit facility and the Second Ghana-Spanish Protocol had been signed to order more buses, trucks, patrol vehicles and other equipment which would arrive in the country soon.
“I am, therefore, directing that, with immediate effect, the Police Administration should put measures in place to ensure that such laxity in caring for police items is discontinued,” he said.
To the graduands, the President said their future success would depend on the extent to which they applied knowledge and experience in their line of duty within the service, their commitment to the welfare of society and how they carried themselves with discipline, dignity and pride in their work.
In line with the powers vested in him under the Constitution, the President declared the 134 cadet officers duly commissioned into the superior officer corps of the Ghana Police Service with the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP).
Cadet Officer Cephas Arthur was adjudged the best cadet.
Story by Donald Ato Dapatem