Police Press Statement Is Not Enough
The Ghana police service has issued a press statement warning the general public to desist from taking the law into their own hands to meet out instant justice to suspected criminals. The statement also sought to encourage the public to report any such activity to the police for action to be taken. In as much as the statement may be welcoming to some of us, I think it will not achieve anything! In other words, I am very sure such statements may have been issued in the past. And my question is: what is the outcome of those statements? Wouldn’t the new statement only seeking to suggest the fact that it had not worked and therefore safe to conclude that the solution to the problem goes beyond typing and issuing press statement?
For people to embark on instant justice, it simply tells you the system has failed – that the people have lost interest and confidence in the state institution mandated to protect life and property. The general public appears to be pathetic towards to police service for their inability to effectively handle issues that have been reported to them for action. Basically the way the police handles issues reported to them is one reason why people resort to instant justice which in itself is illegal. Albeit, people do it and get away with it!
In the case of the recent instant justice meted out to a lady which necessitated the issuance of the new press statement, the police are saying no one has lodged a formal complaint with them neither did the victim did so. These, I believe, are the fundamental requirements before any action can be taken to find perpetrators of such heinous acts of lawlessness. It is very clear that in the absence of any such complaint, the police cannot and would not do any investigation into the matter.
In some cases, an informant is sometimes required to provide evidence of the issue he is bringing to the attention of the police. So if that Good Samaritan or law abiding citizen does not have any evidence to substantiate his claim, that otherwise important issue would be thrown out of the window. There are times the one lodging the complaint is threatened with arrest should it turn out that his claim was not true. All these things do not encourage the public to report many of the crimes that go on around them on daily basis. People are also afraid of reprisal attacks since there is no proper protection for such informants.
The police has often complained about inadequate logistics to effect arrest or follow-up on issues that are reported to them. There are times the one lodging the complaint is asked to provide taxi to convey them to the scene of the incidence. In some cases, the police would tell you they don’t have fuel in their vehicle and so if you can buy the fuel, they would go with you. Inability of the complainant to provide the means of the transportation would result in no action being taken to arrest the situation.
Quite recently, I was at one of the police stations in my home municipality to report a threat on my life and those of my siblings. The police took down my complaints. When he was done, he told me there were other pressing issues they had to attend and that my issue would be dealt with the next day.
By the time I got back home, the house was already on ‘fire’. From look of things, I knew lives could be lost as property were being destroyed. I thought it wise to rush back to the police station to call for police intervention. The station officer told me it was late and so I should go back and come the next day. He told me they don’t effect arrest in the night as they might be killed. The police has been trained in combating. So if he is afraid to lose his life, what about me an ordinary man? All my pleas fell on deaf ears. A subordinate police officer approached me with an offer. He said inasmuch as it was late as his boss had told me, provided I could motivate them, they would go with me to pick the man causing the trouble. He said they would not go in taxi but in their vehicle. Then I asked I about the motivation and he said I should give them Ghc150.00. Meanwhile, taxi to the place would Ghc1.50. We negotiated and they agreed to go if I could motivate them with at least Ghc100.00. I had to pay upfront but I told them I had no money on me unless we get home. So they agreed and we went to effect the arrest. I paid them when we arrived at the police station. Imagine what would have happened if I refused to do what they wanted! Perhaps they would have come for us if we had taken the law into our own hands to deal with the one threatening our lives and the vice versa.
But hey, the have the good side too. Just last Friday, I was returning from Accra and a trailer driver poured water onto the windscreen of the vehicle I was traveling and as if that was not enough, the trailer driver entered our lane and our driver had to veer off the road. Our driver nearly knocked down a pedestrian and almost tossed over in his attempt to avoid knocking down the pedestrian. He sped off after that careless driving. This incidence happened on the Tema Motorway. I picked the registration number of the trailer and called the police emergency line. The vehicle was arrested at Tema-Roundabout and I was called to report at the M.T.T.U office of the Ghana Police service at Old Tulaku on the Tema-Akosombo stretch of the road where the trailer had been detained. The police officer who handled the case was a nice guy. And since no one was hurt, I pleaded with the police to warn the trailer driver and let him go. I was just impressed with the swift manner the police handled my complain.
I decided to share with you my personal experience with the police. That is not the only experience I had with them. And I am very sure a lot of people out there have had one experience or the other with the police. It is on this note I think issuing press statement is not enough. They should be looking at making the institution more relevant, more proactive, and friendlier. Their human relation is just too poor. When all these things are done, there would be no need to issue press statements. When that confidence is built in the people, there would be readiness on the part of the citizenry to report and offer information to the police.