By Maxwell Obiri-Yeboah .
On Tuesday, February 19, 2019, the Greater Accra Regional Commander of Police, DCOP Patrick Adusei Sarpong, appeared before the Emile Short Commission of Enquiry to answer questions pertaining to the violence that foiled the beauty of the Ayawaso West Wuogon by-election.
The following are excerpts of the cross-examination of the Police Commander:
Counsel to the commission, Mr. Eric Osei-Mensah, initiated the conversation as always.
Question: Can you describe to the commission what your duties are as a Regional Commander?
Answer: The duties of a Regional Commander include both operational and administrative. Operational in the sense that every duty that is performed within the region comes under the control of the Regional Commander. And administratively, includes the welfareof the personnel, office working and everything that concerns policing in the region is the duty of the Regional Commander.
Question: And the operational duties will include election security. Am I right?
Answer: That’s right.
Question: Now, as a Regional Commander, did you play any role at all in the election security of the Ayawaso Wuogon Constituency by-election?
Answer: Yes, very active role, everything was on my laps, together with my officers.
Question: If you say everything was on your laps, would you please break that down for the commission?
Answer: The organisation of the elections from the planning stages, going to the polling stations, the deployment of personnel, monitoring, patrols, everything that has something to do with the elections, including giving security and protection at all places, and, especially, the polling center. Everything was under the control of the Regional Commander.
Question: DCOP, how many commanders are within the Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency?
Answer: Ayawaso West Wuogon Constituency includes Tesano Division. Tesano Division has the Tesano District, it also includes parts of Nima Division, which has the Nima Divisional Commander and the District Commander; Airport Division which is made up of airport itself with a District Commander, East Legon, where there is East Legon Commander, and Legon itself where is also there a District Commander.
Question: Now you said security, as far as security of the by-election is concerned, everything was on our laps. Did you receive operation orders with these commanders?
Answer: We sent signals to them informing them of some private personnel to the region, because it is the region who controls everything, so we prepare our operational order to the headquarters, and they also brought up the operational order.
Question: Now tell the commission, which of these operational orders was used for the election?
Answer: What we sent to the headquarters and what they brought back is almost the same, except that one or two items in the final one changed, but on the ground, our operational order was sent to all the divisions, as well as the district commanders.
Question: Are you able to tell the commission what changed?
Answer: The district I’m talking about is like the headquarters, they gave us support, and the personnel that they gave us and all do not belong to the district.
Question: Now the operation orders you used, did you make reference to all the agents that represented in the tax force?
Answer: There was no task force.
Question: Is that not a standard practice for election security?
Answer: Yes for general elections, national security election task force is formed, the regional one is formed, then the district one is formed, but it’s not so for by-elections. Because, for national one it is planned and everyone knows the time when the elections will be held. So meetings are held several times, and these operations are put in place. But that’s not the case in by-elections, because they come at a time when no one expects. When they come, it is incumbent on the Regional Commander, together with the electoral officers, to quickly plan as to how the elections would be conducted.
Question: Chief, besides personnel from the Police Service, did you have personnel from other security agencies?
Answer: Yes, we had that of the Ghana Immigration Service.
Question: How did you draw these personnel?
Answer: We made a request to the immigration, they agreed to assist and deploy personnel to us, and we deployed them together with the policemen.
Question: In all how many police personnel were deployed?
[DCOP then makes reference to his notes and picks up the microphone].
Answer: Mr. Chairman, in all we deployed 428 police personnel, as well as 341 immigration personnel. Total was 769, the combined force of the police and immigration. Some of the commanders though, had specific roles; they were given general roles as well.
Question: What specific role was the East Legon Commander assigned to?
Answer: He was deployed as a Patrol Officer to lead a patrol team.
Question: Was he actually deployed to perform those duties?
Answer: He didn’t report at the time I was leaving to the police station; by the time I was leaving.
Question: Had he been given prior notice before the day?
(DCOP Sarpong seemed to be speaking fast and Chairperson for the commission then beckons at him to slow down in answering the questions.)
Answer: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Question: How was that done?
Answer: Mr. Chairman, I communicated to him on mobile phone. I sent him a message, and I have it here
(Counsel then took some eight majestic footsteps forward to the table where the DCOP was sitting to verify the message on the his phone, and reads it to the commission)
Counsel then speaks: At 9:47pm on January 30, 2019, a WhatsApp message was sent to ASP/Mr. George Asare, East Legon.
“Good Evening. Report at RHQ at 0500 hours to join other officers and lead a patrol team. All district commanders are to let their drivers bring their pickups at exactly 0500 hours to be assigned for patrol,” the message read.
Question: Was there a response?
Answer: There wasn’t. There is another officer at the Accra Central District office. I sent him the same message, the same time, and he responded, which I have it here.
(Counsel once again walks to him to inspect the message.)
Question: Now, Chief, would you be surprised if I tell you that the commission has been given an account that the East Legon Commander was sidelined?
Answer: My Lord, I will be surprised and, therefore, let me show to this commission a signal which was brought from the Airport Divisional Command which I have it here.
(He went ahead and fetched a document on the table to the commissioner)
Question: Now, this signal you have given to the commission, what is in it?
Answer: My Lord, it is the names of the personnel who were sent to the regional by the Airport Division and the East Legon Commander’s name is the first to be captured in the list.
Question: Now was there a break at any point in the chain of command? Has it come to your attention that there were incidences of violence at some places within the constituency?
Answer: Yes, at a place; it came to my notice
Question: Where exactly?
Answer: The one that came to my notice was at the Bawaleshie School. We monitored from the FM radio stations and the police radio set gave signals, and I made a dash to the place.
Question: So what did you do after you went to the place and had the assistance of an officer?
Answer: I was led by him to the scene, where I met the crime scene people, so I followed them as they processed the scene.
Question: Can you share your observation of the scene with the commission?
Answer: I was sent to the house of the NDC parliamentary candidate, which is not far from the Bawaleshie school where [the] poll was taking place, and there was blood on the ground and a container with a hole which all the people around said there was a gunshot which pierced the container.
Question: Have you seen an after-incident report of the shooting?
Answer: My Lord, from there I went to the national headquarters where the NDC was in a meeting with the IGP; where the IGP gave an order for the CID to take over investigations.
Question: DCOP, has it come to your attention that a Member of Parliament was assaulted near the polling station?
Answer: Yes my Lord. I watched it on the tele.
Question: So your men have not reported that to you as the Greater Accra Regional Police Commander?
Answer: I said the police gave out all these information of the incident, and the IGP directed the Director General CID to take over these investigations. So, we at the Greater Accra Regional did not do anything, since the headquarters are doing investigations.
Question: Now, on the day, it has been reported of some masked, brown uniformed men, patrolling the constituency. Has it come to our attention?
Question: At what point did it come to our attention?
Answer: After the incident.
Question: So what you are saying is that until the incident you had no knowledge of men who don’t belong to any of the units you have deployed PATROLLING in your region, in one of your divisions, in one of the districts?
(At this time, both the DCOP and the counsel, Eric Osei-Mensah were looking at each other, eyeball to eyeball, the as counsel raised his voice at a point when he realised that DCOP would not allow him to land before answering his question.)
Answer: No, No, No. Mr. Chairman, I was doing patrols myself, and I never came across any of the people that you are describing.
(Counsel looks at the DCOP for close to five seconds, and positions the microphone to his mouth to speak into it)
Question: DCOP, you will agree with me that as the man in charge of your region,at least your men were expected to pick certain intelligence of elements that the part of your unit within any part of the constituency. What do you say?
Answer: I won’t agree with you.
Question: DCOP if that is your answer, then I am suggesting to you that these men could have done anything and run out of the constituency before it came to your notice. What do you have to say?
Answer: I won’t agree with you, because it has been said that on the TV that these men are from the National Security. So if these men from that National Security are working, a policeman from my unit has no power to stop him or do anything with him.
(Head of the commission, Justice Short, then invites the counsel to his table, and after a minute comes back to his post, where he apologises to the DCOP and they continue with the question and answer process.)
Question: Now, from your experience, what do you think would be the causes of this prevalence of vigilante groupings?
Answer: My reason may not be the reason for their existence, because politicians have said often times that they have formed these groups to protect them. As to whether that is genuine or not, it is for them. By the end of the day, everybody condemns that is it not a good, a healthy institution.
Question: So besides what the politicians say, you wouldn’t be able, as DCOP who has been an officer for over 30 years, to tell this commission what you think are some of the reasons why they are formed?
(DCOP now gazes at the table before him for 31 seconds, before answering the question.)
Answer: Some of the causes for some boys, it is employment. Some of them have little or nothing to depend on. So when they get people they use them for all kinds of things, and whiles they get support from them, it’s good for them. So they may be depending on the person.
Question: According to some of the politicians in opposition they do not trust the police. Have you heard?
Answer: That is true.
Question And according to them, the Police Service is at the whim and caprices of the government of the day. Have you heard that?
Answer: Yes, that is why when they are in government, they trust. When they are not in government, they don’t trust.
Question: Why do you think when they are in government they trust and when they are not, they do not?
Answer: The fact is when in government, they have certain influence over the police. So when out of the government and they don’t have it, they become afraid and apprehensive that the powers that they used when they were in power will also be used against them. So they become afraid of their own shadows.
Question: DCOP, what do you think, in your experience, we can do as a country to take of the influence the politician in power has over the Police Service?
Answer: In my personal view as Sarpong. I am not speaking as a policeman. Politicians should do politics and allow security men to do security work. I don’t know how possible and how feasible that would be. So if the politicians would take themselves of the security and allow the men to do their own work, without any hitch or hindrance, then I think, with time, everything will be all right.
(Counsel then presents the DCOP for further probe, when Justice Short comes in.)
Question: DCOP, you said that so far as the by-election is concerned, all the activities and operations were organised by you?
Answer: That is so, Mr. Chairman.
Question: Are you aware that some of your officers belong to the National Security SWAT team?
Answer: Sir, the officers who belong to the National Security SWAT team are not the personnel who are within the region under the command of the Regional Commander.
Question: Who are they answerable to? The police officers who are part of the National Security SWAT team?
Answer: They are with the National Security. And we have no dealings with any of them. Everything that they do, is to the National Security.
Question: On this day, 31st of January, 2019, it is recorded that the National Security SWAT team were going to have an operation near the Bawaleshie polling station?
Answer: No, Mr. Chairman, not at all.
Question: You were not informed?
Answer: Not at all, Mr. Chairman.
Question: Is that a usual practice?
Answer: Mr. Chairman, because they operate on their own without reference to the Regional Command, We didn’t know anything about them. Because, if there had been information that there was a need to do an exercise, we were more prepared, we could have done it. But this time, it didn’t come to the notice of the Regional Command that they will be in town and for whatever purpose.
Question: Even though the operation was going to take place close to a polling station, you were not informed?
Answer: No Mr. Chairman. Not at all
Question: And you don’t think it would have been prudent for you to be informed about this one?
Answer: Mr. Chairman, even the exercise that they were going to do, if they had handed it over to me, the Regional Command, we could have done. But we didn’t know anything about them until we heard of what has happened.
Question: So, in effect, what you are saying is that there is no collaboration between the National Security and the Regional Command?
Answer: Not at all.
Question: Is that helpful for the security of this nation?
Answer: I don’t think so, Mr. Chairman.
Question: What about the IGP? To your knowledge, would he be aware of operations of the National Security team?
Answer: He may be aware, and I say so because he attends National Security meetings.
(Prof. Henrietta Mensah-Bonsu takes over from Justice Short.)
Prof. Mensah-Bonsu then seeks clarification on whether letters and indeed a message were sent to DSP Asare.
Question: You said when you were on your way to East Legon after you heard of the incident you contacted the East Legon Commander?
Answer: He called me.
Question: He called you and he said he was going to the hospital with his child?
Answer: Yes Mr. Chairman.
Question: And is this a normal procedure; that when there has been a crisis in the place, the Commander of the place will have the time off to pursue domestic obligations?
Answer: No, that is not.
Question: He was here; he said he was going to vote. Do you think there was some disciplinary action there? Isn’t that why the discipline is going on in the Police Service?
Answer: Mr. Chairman, discipline may be going down within the police and elsewhere due to a number of factors.
(Mr. Kwarteng Acheampong was the last person to speak among the commissioners.)
Question: In any case when you get any assistance from the personnel who were working with the SWAT team? You were a member of the police, and you saw somebody in a khaki trousers and black T-shirt with some inscription, if you’re not an illiterate, what did this particular people write at the back, those who were deployed and working with the SWAT team?
Question: An ordinary member of the public, what would they know?
Answer: They would not know.
Question: Even with the personnel from the police and immigration, unless they have been told. Would most of them know what NSC means?
(DCOP Sarpong then gives a hilarious answer.)
Answer: National Sports Council or something.
(His answer brought an outburst of laughter.)
Mr. Kwarteng gave advice to the DCOP on how to collaborate and educate his sister security officers to be well identified in their uniforms, just for clarity purposes, and dismiss