By Frederick E. Aggrey .
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has called on the government to establish an Independent Police Complaint Authority (IPCA) to effectively deal with complaints against the police, since the Police Intelligence and Professional Standards (PIPS), now the Police Professional Standards Bureau (PPSB), has become an ineffective unit.
Launching a research report on the need to have an independent body for complaints about the police, Mina Mensah, Head of Africa office of CHRI, bemoaned the ineffectiveness of the PPSB, and called on stakeholders to ensure the setting up of an independent body that would take over from the PPSB.
She revealed that the PPSB has become just a unit of the Police Service, which only seems to cover up for members who fall foul of the law.
She added that “over the years, so many things have happened that suggest that we need to reform our Police Service to conform to our democratic principles.”
She added that in Ghana, if one considers our legal framework, on paper it suggests that we do have a structure that indicates that there are accountability mechanisms, “however, these mechanisms are not [as] effective as they ought to be,” she said.
She added that the CHRI has, over the years, advocated for reforms within the Ghana Police Service, and that one of the things they had been advocating for is an independent police complaint body to receive complaints on behalf of the public.
She said the authority would be useful also to the police personnel themselves, who have issues with the service.
She made reference to a personal experience involving a case the institution sent to the PPSB which it failed to handle.
She indicated that the report revealed that a huge number of people preferred a body outside the Police Service to investigate complaints.
According to her, the report looked at what pertains in Indonesia, Northern Ireland, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Sierra Leone and South Africa, considering how those bodies are operating in those countries, their weaknesses and strength, and considered how Ghana could learn from them.
Justice Emile Short, former Commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice (CHRAJ), in describing the depth to which corruption had engulfed the Ghana Police Service, gave a scenario where in the United States, a policeman stops an individual and that person is expected to raise the hands in his or her own interest, but, in Ghana, once a police officer stops an individual, the person’s hands are expected to look towards the pocket.
He supported the establishment of an independent authority to take complaints against the police.
He said the issue of corruption within the Police Service is a serious issue which all stakeholders must come together to fight.
The Ghana Prisons Service gave its support for the establishment of the body, and narrated their own negative experience involving the PPSB.
Institutions such as Star Ghana, the Center for Democratic Development (CDD), Legal Aid, the Attorney General’s Department, Law Reform Commission, Ghana Police Service, and the Ghana Prisons Service were present to throw their support.
All the institutions except the Ghana Police Service, which also declined to make a statement, were supportive of the call.