The new approach by the Ghana Police Service to engage citizens and to bridge the long-existing gap between citizens concerning police-citizen relations has for some time now been the talk of the town.
Many well-meaning Ghanaians have applauded the current police administration for working to ensure more cordiality between the people they service.
The significance of a cordial relationship between the police and the citizens with a high sense of mutual respect cannot be overemphasised.
The police’s frequent engagement with the community as a philosophy is described by security experts as an organisational strategy that allows the police and the community to work closely together in creative ways to solve the problems of crime, fear of crime, physical and social disorder, among others from the society.
It also fosters confidence among citizens in partnering with the police to fight crime and protect lives and property.
The philosophy rests on the belief that people deserve input into the police process, in exchange for their participation and support. It also rests on the belief that solutions to today’s community problems demand freeing both people and the police to explore creative, new ways to address neighbourhood concerns beyond a narrow focus on individual crime incidents.
There is no doubt that during the past decade, the community policing concept has made a significant contribution to the fight against crime in the country, hence the need to further enrich the concept and make it more effective.
Apparently, it has become necessary to increase police visibility in every corner of the country where the fear of crime still exists and where crime and anti-social behaviour affect the daily lives of members of the public.
The strategy, integrated key elements of a community crime fighting and removal of fear of crime initiative, adding: This strategy, obviously has come at a time when the Police Administration is making efforts to transform the law enforcement agency and make communities safer for the people.
It would also enhance crime prevention campaigns, in partnership with neighbourhood watch committees, residents’ associations, community protection assistants and other stakeholders, he said.
The Ghana Police Service was created by the colonial administration as a Police Force to be primarily used to protect their interest, which included in some cases against the citizenry. After it received legal backing through the Police Service Act, of 1970 (Act 350) after independence and buttressed in the 1992 constitution, the Ghana Police Service is now beaming with positivity across the entire nation.
Among other roles, the service is to primarily prevent and detect crimes planned, in a larger view ensure the total maintenance of law and order and importantly to enhance effective co-existence between the Police and the citizenry to promote safer communities.
To help solve these crime menaces, the Ghana Police Service launched the community policing unit in 2011 aimed at educating the public on its concepts and functions in making the communities safe to live in and devoid of criminal activities.
The Ghana Police Service has launched a community-based policing strategy that will foster collaboration between personnel of the service and local authorities to enforce law, order and security in metropolises, municipalities, and districts across the country.
Such collaboration will also enable the public to identify, prioritise and address pertinent issues of crime in their various communities.
This effort has not only increased police visibility in communities but also ensured that personnel worked more in collaboration with opinion leaders and state agencies to sustain law and order. In intersections in most cities, the police are seen buttressing the citizenry’s confidence.
What has been more amazing is the Snatch Them Young Police Initiative (STYPI). Recently, the Inspector-General of Police Dr George Akuffo Dampare and members of the Police Management board engaged the pupils and opinion leaders of Assin Kruwa in the Central Region to interact and sensitise the pupils in the circuit of schools in the area on policing.
The hearty interaction with the schoolchildren saw the pupils speak openly about their security concerns and their view of the police.
According to the IGP, the initiative represents a significant step towards building a safer and more trusting society while laying the foundation for mutual respect between the Police and the citizenry regardless of their age.
The STYPI is expected to expand its reach to schools and communities across the country, with a focus on nurturing positive relationships between the Police and the nation’s youth.
The frequent police engagement with the citizens has been a phenomenon. All sectors of society has been engaged in one way or the other. The establishment of the Ghana Police TV. An effective communication tool that has by far enhanced the police–citizen engagement which aims at “Engaging the people for safer communities.”
This has since sparked reactions among the Ghanaian populace with much zeal and enthusiasm to relate well with the police. To many a citizen, this is long overdue and the opinion leaders, drivers, hawkers, traders, and many more people have been engaged, sensitised and educated on the laws, cyber matters and policing in the country.
Some few years back, the general perception of the Ghanaian populace about the police was not encouraging, to say the least. From the roads to the charge offices, the cells and the courts, the service was not seen as an institution that promotes friendship with citizens but rather one that triggers confusion, extortions, bullying, assault, maltreating and in some cases killings of the very people they are supposed to protect.
This is not to say all is well with the service but the significant improvement must be acknowledged and applauded.
In Ghana today, the public appears to be increasingly regaining confidence, trust, and respect in the police, and this has contributed to the reduction of crime in the country.
For instance, in 2023, this year, Ghana has registered the lowest crime index of 44.5, since 2019. The index measures the level of crime in a given country or city. This means that, at the said date, crime in Ghana was considered as being on a moderate level. In 2019, the level of crime in the country registered a peak of nearly 52 points.
The Ghana Police Service indeed exists to deliver services in crime prevention detection, apprehension, and prosecution of offenders consistent with the expectations of Ghana stakeholders for maximum protection, safe, secure and peaceful communities in the light of the values of the service which require personnel honesty and firmness but fairness, in their activities thus ensuring effective working partnership with the general public and not the opposite.
Public engagement to understand and appreciate this and to win the support and confidence of the citizenry is paramount and kudos to the current police administration in working towards this.
BY NANA SIFA TWUM (PHD)