I write to express my opinion about the news item with a headline “PIPS now ineffective, Establish Independent Police Complaint Authority -CHRI to Government” Written by Fredrick E. Aggrey and published in The Chronicle Newspaper page13 of Friday, November 2nd 2018.
Though the headline did its work of attracting my attention to read the full story, frankly, the reasons outlined for an independent body on the subject matter could not convince me to support the agenda.
In fact the explanation for that statement as captured in the introduction of the story attributed to CHRI Africa head in the following words “the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative hence her call on the government to establish an Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA) to effectively deal with complainants against the police, since the Police Intelligence And Professional Standards (PIPS), now police Professional Standards Bureau (PPSB), has become an ineffective unit” left me with no option than to say that the findings are misleading and not representative of that respectable unit in the Ghana Police Service I know off.
According to the story, Mina Mensah, Head of Africa Office of CHRI, spoke at the launching of a research report on the need to have an independent body for complaints about the police. Though I’m yet to search for the full report, I think, based on the news reportage I read, it is unfair to the police administration and the majority of Ghanaians who have found justice at PIPS on complaints they have filed against the police.
To say categorically that the PIPS of Ghana Police Service has become ineffective to buttress that point of independent police complaint body at this time, where even civilians prefer to lodge their initial complaints with them because of their proven track record of giving fair treatment is just like the adage ‘give the cat a bad name so it can be killed’.
In as much as I welcome every effort to get non-police personnel in the investigation of complaints against the police, I do not think that running down the existing unit justifies the need for an independent body is the best option.
I, therefore, suggest that the CHRI – Africa head come again with another solid reason for the need for an independent body to address complaints against the police, as this argument she puts forward is a bit weak.
I believe sincerely that the source should have equally spoken about the success story of PIIPS and called for all inclusive approach of that independent body, as a matter of clearing the doubts of some people of the unit.
This is because, at least, from PIPS to PPSB, there are many success stories for the Ghana Police Service when it comes to investigations and sanctions of public against police personnel, to the extent that some personnel think the unit is sympathetic to the public than its own men.
I may not be able to mention names, but I believe the quality of police commanders that have headed that unit in the past and present has worked professionally to win the confidence of most Ghanaians.
So, for anybody to think that the PPSB has become ineffective may have to prove beyond reasonable doubt with some strong evidence for it to be accepted. Even that can’t be entirely the only reasons for an independent body, since there are ways to make things effective.
Her assertion that the unit has become part of the normal police unit, which only seems to cover up for members of the service who fall foul to the law, can only be her opinion, as far as I am aware.
In fact, media reportages show that the unit has dealt with personnel according to the law in many instances where some defaulting members of the Police Service have had their names published with the type of sanctions published against their names in the media, including handing over some to the law courts for the necessary actions.
Even some policemen are of the opinion that their own (PIPS) is harsh in dealing with them at times.
Anyway, Madam, it is unfortunate you personally sent a case to PIPS which it failed to handle, but you would have done us a favour if you told us the kind of case and why they failed to handle it, so some of us could take the matter up, since we believe that the unit in question has been proactive.
Today, it is common for the general public to say I have sent them to police, referring to cases against police sent to PIPS. I have also been informed by an aggrieved complainant about her satisfaction with PIPS where they sent for him to identify the police officer in resolving the matter.
I think that advocating for an independent complaint body is a laudable idea, as it brings balance, but to say that is because the PPSB has not been effective as a reason for that purpose is not right.
Again, describing the depth of police corruption in a scenario where in the United States of America a policeman stops an individual and that person is expected to raise hands in his or her own interest, but in Ghana once a police officer stops the hands are expected to look towards the pocket, is also like comparing apples with mangoes, because these two countries operate under different laws.
The USA has different laws governing the police force, as Ghana police operates within article 200 of the 1992 Constitution and act 350 of 1970.
In fact, I bet to differ on the above scenario, about how that could be the justification for an independent body.
I am also aware that the Ghana Police Service has embarked on several public educations to raise awareness of Ghanaians on how they could deal with corrupt practices.
Yes, it is good for an independent body, including police officers and the civilian public, but to suggest that the existing unit, PIPS, protects its own is not realistic, since there is evidence in the media about the professional manner in which the PIPS handled an alleged police officer stripping a taxi driver somewhere in Anyaa Accra.
The speed at which the Ghana Police, through PIPS, handled the infamous police officer for beating a woman at Midland Bank attests to the fact that the police PPSB needs commendation not condemnation, just because there is a need for an independent body.
Madam, if you had said the issue of corruption in public institutions is a serious one, which all stakeholders must come together to fight without singling out the Ghana Police Service, I would have given you my endorsement, but as you posit that the PIPS has become ineffective at this time, I won’t be at the same length with you.
We can commend the Ghana Police also, since there are enough grounds to do so.
David Fianko- Okyere