By Kabu Nartey
A month ago, I wrote an article whilst I was on a visit to the University of Rwanda. I shared my observations about their security system, particularly the security protocols around their Chief Justice and the operations of the few policemen I saw around as I navigated between the city.
The Rwandan Chief Justice is conveyed to every function together with a special pulpit exclusive for his speech, after which it is transported back.
And when he begins his speech, the doors are locked, no one moves in or out; no one stands except the cameramen and the protocol officer. I alluded in that article the reason for the tight security around the CJ was perhaps due to a plausible attempt on his life.
Furthermore, on the streets of Kigali, policemen deployed for duty, even to direct traffic, are heavily armed. I found this system and protocols weird, extreme and intimidating.
However, recent killings of policemen in Ghana and its resultant directive from the police service, makes me want to have a second look at my initial take on the system observed in Kigali, Rwanda. Proverbially, there is no smoke without fire.
According to the protocol of the police service, (unlike what I saw in Rwanda), Ghanaian policemen are not allowed to have heavy arms while on duties. This was to develop a more approachable face towards the public.
By that, we are reminded that the police is a friend and not a threat to our freedom. It also took away from both uniformed men and women and officers off duty excesses which may easily lead to abuse of their weapon rights.
But this tradition is to end following the gruesome murder of police officers while on duty in Kasoa. It is reported that the driver of a private vehicle was chased and accosted after he absconded an arrest.
The officer in charge slapped him, and in retaliation, the driver managed to take out a gun from his car and shot the officer at the head. Brutish and evil; isn’t it! The officer bled profusely from the mouth but that didn’t stop him from taking shelter in a shop and asking the young shop-keepers there to fall flat so possible further bullets do not hit them. Brave even at the point of death, isn’t it!
Per this new directive, effective this month, Ghana police personnel will look like the Rwandan Police. This would scare but would do so justifiably. The Minister for the Interior and the Police Council have jointly directed every officer on duty to be provided with a bullet-proof jacket, a helmet and should be armed in order to defend themselves in cases of danger.
I am very worried but not surprised about how unsafe our community is gradually becoming. Last week, I wrote on the face of series of abduction that, we should not solely blame the irresponsibility of some officers but also a seemingly weak collaboration between the public and the police to keeping us safe.
Last month saw fierce criticism on our police service due to the mass kidnapping of the Takoradi girls and the discovery of some remains suspected to be those of the girls. For some months now, the service which should rather protect us has rather recorded the beastie murder of some of its men not only in Accra but Cape Coast as well.
Truth be told, the police service feels insecure now dealing with the public and civilians. The police feel threatened and undermined. And this should be handled with tact least we may record series of tensions between civilians and policemen.
I do not know how civilians will feel in return. It seems as a defense mechanism, the police would have no other option than to go for that which they wanted to avoid in the first place, heavily arming themselves and not giving chances.
Sergeant Dzamesi and Lance Corporal Awal remain martyrs, heroes and patriotic uniformed men. But their unfortunate murder should not anger their colleagues to vent this hurt on innocent citizens, rather, they should channel this new edge to fight the criminals.
I also urge the service to organize a capacity workshop for all officers when the dust settles since the tough immediate response with the new directive may mis-communicate revenge, public fatigue and emotionalism. Both police and civilian lives matter!