The top hierarchy of the Ghana Police Force is obviously embarrassed by the spate of armed robberies that have hit Accra and its environs, as well as other urban areas, in recent days.
This embarrassment has led to a minor change in command at the top of the police service. But this change has been made somewhat comical by the fact that one of the top people who have just been reassigned, appears to have been personally involved – latterly – in the arrest of armed robbers allegedly caught with “sophisticated weapons”.
Be that as it may, such a minor reshuffle can’t possibly solve the current upsurge in crime in the country. I hesitate to discuss this issue because the Ghana Police Force has turned out, in my experience, to be one of the most unmovable institutions in the country – as far as respect for public opinion is concerned.
I need to explain how I came by that damn in viewpoint. In November 2010, a 72-year-old woman, Madam Amma Hemaa, was set upon and horrifically burned alive at Tema, by a sadistic mob, who mistook her “odd” behaviour for witchcraft! The police initially charged some people, took them to court, and efficiently outlined the case against them. But since then, nothing has been heard about the case.
I have personally written numerous articles asking the police to let us know what had happened to the case of the alleged murderers of the old woman. [See, for instance]
For the old woman’s behaviour before she was killed clearly showed symptoms associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. So, in refusing to prosecute the case to its logical conclusion, the police had failed in one of their tasks – educating the public to understand what constitutes a crime. When members of the public know what a crime is and what is not, they are more likely to be deterred from committing stupid crimes, such as burning sick, old people for witchcraft.
So, had the murderers been cross-examined in court; had expert evidence been adduced to provide a vivid description of what can happen to people who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s, and had a judge come to a judgement which he would have read in open court, the public would have been educated to recognise the crucially important fact that “odd” behaviour in older people can have a physical – as against a “spiritual” – cause. Just as a headache, stomachache or boil can be treated in the physical realm with medication, and not only with so-called “holy water” supplied by a person falsely representing himself as a “prophet”.
Equally, if the Ghana Police Service were a listening organisation, it would have saved itself much embarrassment in its handling of galamsey cases. It wants our president and his Cabinet to give it the “tools” so that it can “do the job”. But when it has an opportunity to demonstrate that it can “do the job”, what does it normally do?
Take just one example: it’s only in the past week that the Chinese “Galamsey Queen”, Ayesha Huang, was given more serious charges than the immigration misdemeanours she had initially been charged with. In fact, galamsey cases have been so poorly prosecuted that some judges and magistrates have been treating the cases with kid gloves. They are now under justifiable attack, for there is an incessant outcry against the wanton manner in which our rivers and water-bodies, as well as our food and cocoa farms, are being ruthlessly destroyed by galamsey operators in their search for gold.
The public at large realises that if the judges and magistrates are not with the campaign to end galamsey, then they are against it. But why should we present a divided front when we need to deter our own people and their foreign collaborators from laying waste to our rivers, streams and water-bodies?
Another example: it was reported recently that a district chief executive and a district assembly had collected GH¢700,000 from a group of Chinese galamseyers and released to them, 12 excavators and bulldozers that had been seized from the Chinese miners at a galamsey site. Has the Ghana police (CID) interrogated the district chief executive and his assembly members? Mustn’t the CID find out where they got the power to adjudicate over galamsey cases (without the participation of the police) and impose a “penalty” on galamseyers (outside a court!) payment of which [GH¢700,000!] entitled them to release the excavators to the galamseyers?
With such lapses occurring in the work of the police service, we would be justified in holding our peace with regard to how the detection deterring of armed robberies might be conducted. But who knows? Maybe it is only a few police officers who have closed their ears to our expressions of concern about the performance of the police.
Therefore, in the belief that there might be willing ears in the police service, here, for what they are worth, are a few points. One: police communications must be completely revamped. Advantage should be taken of the tremendous advances that have been made in digital and mobile telecommunications technology to install systems which can make calls to the police information room (for instance) to be heard synchronously by every police car within the environs of the metropolis, as well as other police stations.
And it should be made IMPOSSIBLE for a call from the pubic not to get through to the police and be recorded. In the US, the authorities are still poring over warnings that the public had given the police about the state of mind of the student involved in the shooting of 17 students in Florida recently. The information was there, provided by the technology, had the police been efficient enough to utilise it. We must make sure that we also always have the information.
By CAMERON DUODU
(TO BE CONTINUED)