Monday, 24 July 2017

Ensuring Public Safety In Ghana

It may appear that Ghana is not a safe place and it has been unsafe for some time now. There have been repeated episodes of political violence which have made names like Agbogbloshie, Akwatia, Baffoe, Kumbungu, Kulungugu, Lamagushie and others famous. Places like Yendi, Bawku and others remind many of bloodshed rather than the grandeur of chiefs. The recent murder of Major Adam Mahama and others have shaken our assumptions about who we are. To make matters worse, last week, two police officers were shot in broad daylight at Lapaz in Abeka, here in Accra. This should however not surprise us. We are part of Africa.

According to former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair's Africa Commission report, since 1980, violence has killed more people in Africa than on any other continent. These conflicts have displaced 13 million people and created 3.5 million refugees. Ghana may have a reputation as a peaceful and stable country, but the sad reality is many Ghanaians are living in fear. Our security at home is frequently violated by armed robbers and frequent stories of unsolved robberies and murders abound. Western nations routinely warn tourists of violence on our streets. One can attribute the growing levels of crime in the country to inadequate police personnel.

In 2014, there were 30,635 police personnel, giving a ratio of one policeman or woman to 784 citizens. That is not up to the U.N. standard of one police person to 500 citizens. The International Association of Police Chiefs believes this ratio varies from urban to rural areas and that urban areas should have about two point five police per thousand citizens. Apart from understaffing, one other critical challenge of the service has to do with equipment and training. Too often, police lack vehicles, communication equipment and other technology.

Perhaps, another contributory factor to the increasing spate of crime is the issue of corruption. The alleged widespread corruption in both the police service and the judiciary undermines public confidence in the law. This leads to people taking the law into their hands. One can also speak of the lack of documentation of people with small arms and the attitude of politicians.

When the work of the police and other security agencies are politicised, we all become less safe. The solutions are obvious. We must hire more police people. Adding 20,000 more to the police force will reduce unemployment and make us safer. We must reduce corruption with and body cams automation. If we double a corrupt police force, we get twice the corruption. We need a transparent and incorruptible judiciary.

Currently, if a man must choose between bribing the police or the judge, he will bribe the police to save time. Let the politicians leave the police alone. Let us begin by ending the practice of changing IGP's with every election. If the IGP can lose his job because of elections, no policeman can be apolitical. Let us make Ghana safe for all.

BY DR KOBINA ARTHUR KENNEDY, A US BASED GHANAIAN PHYSICIAN.

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