Safeguarding the Police

Abstract

The Ghana Police Service in 2017 was adjudged the eighth-best in Africa and 87th among 127 countries around the world by the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI), using 16 indicators including capacity, process, legitimacy and outcomes. Despite its international ratings, the Police Service continues to suffer attacks – some fatal – by a section of the populace. While some blame the situation on lack of logistics, others blame it on the personnel training – with a number attributing it to attitude and protracted government neglect. Using open source data and interactions with some personnel, this study attempts to diagnose the myriad of issues confronting the Ghana Police Service. It proffers some interventions to engender professionalism while guaranteeing protection of the personnel and safeguarding the security and sovereign integrity of Ghana. This will be in two parts.

Overview

State security, including defence and policing, by its very nature is a high-risk occupation.  People are now more willing to engage the Police in combat than previously anticipated, sometimes without provocation. The attacks on Police and other law enforcement personnel in Ghana in recent times range from assault to shooting and causing disabling injuries. Part of the war on Police personnel by criminal entities has been the failure of Police leadership to step up to the plate and not acquiesce to political and communal considerations when it comes to the safety and security of its officers.

The other part of the war on personnel has been the failure of media, traditional and modern – and to a larger extent the communal society, to post or discuss anything positive about Police. Some false narratives on social media tend to perpetuate a distorted perception against the personnel. Other stakeholders are blaming joblessness of the youth for the increasing spate of robberies and attacks in the country. These have made a serious dent not only in the image of the service but also the government at large.

Despite these, the Ghana Police Service in 2017, was adjudged the eighth-best in Africa and 87th among 127 countries around the world by the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI), using 16 indicators including capacity, process, legitimacy and outcomes.  The objective of this field appraisal is to offer suggestions for cross-sector involvement and consideration by leadership.

 Police Ratio and Equipment Supply

Even though the writer disagrees, some analysts including senior officers within the Ghana Police Service describe the Service as being in a decrepit state. The Policeman needs to be well-equipped with modern weapons and other policing accoutrements to fight crime. Aside from this, there is the low Police-Population ratio. This improved marginally from one Police officer to 976 in year 2011 to one Police officer to 847 people in year 2012, giving a Police-population ratio of 1:784 and improving to a ratio of 1:777 in 2015. The United Nations policing standard is one Police personnel to 500 people. This means Ghana should have about 52,000 Police personnel, but the current strength stands at about 38,000.

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Even though this is not entirely the case, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime classifies Police per population is an indicator of a nation’s ability to respond and investigate civil and criminal complaints, terrorism, riots, unrest and other forms of mob or mass violence. This is a generic misconception because Nigeria for example, has more than 370,000 Police officers and a Police-to-citizen ratio of 1 to 400, which more than meets the UN’s recommended benchmark. Paradoxically, Nigerian society is described as ‘over-Policed and under-secured’. The welfare of Police personnel has also been cited as another serious matter. It is on record that only 6,200 out of about 34,000 personnel are accommodated in the barracks.

 

Police Response to Violent Crimes

Historically, such surges in robberies are not new in Ghana. Many crimes within the cities are associated with the use of firearms, which often results in fatalities.  A total of 89 robberies were recorded in January 2018 – 38 more than that recorded in the same month of 2017. Far back in 1981, following reported cases of armed robberies, the Anti Armed Robbery Squad (AARS) was formed – about 31 years ago.

Quite recently, a new Special Weapons and Tactics Unit (SWAT) was established in August 2013 by amalgamating the Panthers and old SWAT to deal effectively with the Policing challenges in society – especially armed criminals using high-calibre weapons. Despite the above policing arrangements, there have been a number of cell-break within the last five years, with criminals escaping even though some were later re-arrested. Gradually, Ghana is ceasing to enjoy monopolistic control over security due, in part, to a number of reasons.

Firstly, communications are no longer controlled by the state. The Internet and social media, radio and television are examples of such systems which have added to the dilution. International migration is a factor, and the ability to control the movement of people has also diminished. Data available at the Ghana Police Headquarters and in the media show that more than 48 Police officers have died in the discharge of their duties from 2013 to date.

The number of officers killed each year during the period are 2013 – 13; 2014 – 11; 2015 – 07; 2016 – 06; 2017 – 07; and 2018 – (?)04. It is also revealing to state that at least 15 persons, representing 31.25%, out of the 48 personnel, were killed by armed robbers, unidentified gunmen and nomadic herdsmen. As if that is not enough, in early January 2018 three military officers and a Policeman were also ambushed by nomadic herdsmen.  

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Remedial Measures

Informed by the need for transformation through change, and with the backdrop of the fact that the best approach to crime reduction and prevention is through collaboration between the criminal agencies and local communities, the Police Service has taken unwavering steps to build a robust policing system that will make it the best in Africa. The public is however yet to feel the impact of the Police transformation agenda with the fluid and threatening robberies occur across country.

Most Ghanaians are dissatisfied with the performance of the Police institution. The dissatisfaction is perhaps due to years of executive and institutional neglect, and the culture within the service. Most cells are poorly-constructed and have not been renovated since construction, some dating beyond 4 decades.  Indeed, we cannot entirely blame the current insecurity on lack of resources. The current insecurity has something to do with strategy; it is historical, structural, systemic, behavioural and leadership-influenced.

Even with these problems, in 2017 the World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) using 16 indicators including capacity, process, legitimacy and outcomes, ranked the Ghana Police Service as the eighth best-in Africa and 87th among 127 countries around the world. Without question, an assault on any Police officer of any kind should never be considered ‘part of the job’ even though the occupational risk should have been anticipated. How then do we ensure the Police delivers? The following 16 remedial measures are offered:

  1. Personnel Support: First, Police officers should be afforded the support they need and deserve. This means they must be treated the same way as any other victim of crime. Those who attack Police officers should be dealt with swiftly and in consonance with the law. 
  2. Action on the Increasing Crime: Government might need to make active responses to the increasing figures on crime.  In the US, for example, the number of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty dropped sharply in 2017 – marking the second-lowest toll in more than 50 years. The drop was attributable to use of advanced safety-gear such as bulletproof vests. Better relationships and reduced violence in communities may also be rekindled.

The rest of the 16 remedial measures are submitted in Part-2 of subsequent editions.

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