‘The police are not as black as their uniform’

I have an abiding memory of a policeman. It is about a strict upright man. He was the General Police Constable dressed in dark gray sweater with leather pad on each shoulder. He wore khaki shorts, red band for belt and puttees for socks.

A red cap with a crown and a tassel adorned his head. A baton, which he carried with a swagger, completed an air of authority. Musa the policeman was respected and feared. He effected arrests with one phrase, “Master say…” and he brooked no plea for mercy or indeed gave in to inducement of any kind. He was the illiterate type known as kotikoti or abunga but he was respected.

The Ghana Police Service has long ceased producing the kotikoti. Among all ranks now, one is bound to find not only literate but well- educated individuals who seek improving themselves with continuous education and training. Unfortunately, public perception of the average Ghanaian policeman has been on the downward spiral.

Nearly every Ghanaian has heard or has a story to tell about a negative professional conduct of a policeman. One that is currently making the rounds is summed up in a metaphor about police morality: “A policeman is as black as his uniform.” It enumerates several newspaper reports of police misconduct for personal profit.

There was the infamous case of cocaine turning into ‘kokonte’ in a police strong room. There were also several cases of killing by the police. In one tragic case, many years ago, a policeman shot dead his colleague in Tarkwa in broad daylight in the barracks during the sharing of some booty they had extorted from illegal miners.

He was quoted to have shouted, “You K…, you want to cheat me again” while he pulled the trigger. That the district commander had to wait several weeks after a Ghana News Agency report before taking action showed the level of collusion that could exist in the service.

There is the recent case of attempted robbery of a bullion van by policemen with the killing of the driver. The public ire in Donkorkrom resulting in the vandalisation of the Police Station shows how low some sections of Ghanaian society rate the police as protectors who must be co-operated with in maintaining public and individual security.

It is hoped that the Ghana Police Service, as a modern institution, does regular introspection and self-assessment of her own image and professional performance. It may come out clearly that they have sacrificed quality for numbers in an attempt to improve police to civilian ratio. Some of the recruits have no business being trained to handle weapons and wear the black uniform. They are simply mercenaries.

There is no doubt that police visibility gives great sense of public security. But with the type of negative conducts reported at regular frequency, many bad lots have clearly found themselves into black uniform and proving a menace to public security. This is not difficult to fathom when police recruitment scams allegedly involved some in the highest hierarchy of the service. Regretfully, investigations into police malfeasance in such matters seem to grind to a halt leading to some citizens alleging cover up and lax enthusiasm to cleanse the organisation.

Talking about unproductive and ineffectual investigations remind Mr Frazier of the recent deaths of two young police officers, one in Kwame Danso and the other at Kukuom, all in the Brong Ahafo Region. They were allegedly killed in the night by armed highway robbers with AK 47 Assault Rifle while on operation with colleagues.

Investigations sometimes do take time to bring out the true facts but some of the stories being spun about these incidents could only be taken with a pinch of salt. Mr Frazier makes no insinuation. He is not a cynic. But one seems to smell something like a rat.

Undoubtedly, there are fine, disciplined and conscientious officers whose motivation is not to “grab” or “silence” colleagues. They must be commended and the entire Service must not be made to look black. It is down to their own conduct as portrayed to the public.


By: Joe Frazier