Chapter 15, Article 200 (Clause 1) of the 1992 Constitution, says that “there shall be a Police Service of Ghana”, while Clause 2 of the same Article 200 states that: “the Police Service shall be equipped and maintained to perform its traditional role of maintaining law and order”.
Coming to the Ghana Police Service Act, section 1 states that: “it shall be the duty of the Police Service to detect crime, to apprehend offenders, and maintain public order and the safety of persons and property”.
Perfect as this may seem, it is interesting to note that, the same constitution says the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) and other top brass of the service must be appointed by the President.
Beyond that, there is a Police Council which, the constitution says, must be chaired by the Vice President of the Republic. And as if that is not enough, the law allows the Police Council to be ‘stuffed’ with other personalities such as the Interior Minister, the Attorney-General or a representative, a Lawyer from the Ghana Bar Association (GBA), a Retired Senior Police Officer and two members of the Police Service appointed by the President in consultation with the Council of State, who shall be Junior rank, plus two other members appointed by the President.
Even though this provision makes the Police Service look like a very powerful institution, it is clear that it rather places the institution under the strict control of government.
This arrangement was probably put in place because of past events (prior to 1992) where security officers led the overthrow of legitimately-elected governments.
Our democracy was young then, and the framers of the constitution thought it wise to put in place measures to nurture and protect the fragile democracy.
But today, considering the fact that our democracy has ‘grown’ and the constitution had stood the test of time for over twenty-seven years, I think is time the provisions of Articles 201 and 202 of the 1992 constitution have outlived their usefulness and must, thus, be looked at again. This is because by tradition, it is odd to continue feeding a young man at the age of twenty-seven and sixty-two with breast milk.
In my candid opinion, the country and the constitution have come of age, and therefore, if the President continues appointing the IGP and members of the Police Council, the police institution would be rendered impotent, porous, and weak when it comes to relating to people in government.
The time has therefore come for the Police to be given the independence.
In strongly hold the view that, the inability or failure of the police to deal with the issue of political vigilantism in the country is largely due to this hierarchical arrangement.
Groups like the Hawks, Azorka Boys, Delta Force, Invincible Forces, and the rest seem to be having a field day and respect their paymasters more than the IGP. It is not surprising that, even when arrested, the police find it difficult to prosecute them since their hands are tied.
We are all aware of the most recent case of the Delta Force in Kumasi, which had the temerity to raid a court and free some of its members under prosecution.
Would these vigilante groups continue to be this ‘irresponsible’ had the hands of the IGP not been tied?
I can’t agree any better with Mr. Adam Bonaa, a Security Expert, who suggested that, to engender the Independence of the Police Service, the institution must be given the freedom to elect its own Inspector General of Police.
Ghana’s first head of the Commission of Human Rights and Administrative Justice(CHRAJ) and the Chairman of the Commission that probed into the Violence that occurred, Justice Emile Short, also expressed similar sentiments.
He maintained that the President should be restricted to the appointment of his ministers and his members of government, and argued that the appointment of heads of public institutions and other public officials should be the onus of those bodies.
Some elements within the police administration are also calling for the independence of the institution.
They suggest that it will be better if the leadership of the police will operate a tenure-based system where no political party or president can boot out any IGP from office. They called for a clear definition of the work and removal of the IGP, with no political strings attached.
Speaking at a roundtable discussion organized by the Institute of Democratic Governance (IDEG) on political vigilantism, ACP Benjamin Agordzor called for the depoliticization of the Police Council to enable the Service to work objectively and effectively.
To him, it is only then that the police will have the space to effectively fight crime, maintain law and order, protect properties and ensure the safety of the citizenry.
If we, the citizens in this lovely country, want our safety and security to be guaranteed then we need to put pressure on our Legislators, the Judiciary and the Executive to immediately make amendments to Articles 201 and 202 of the Constitution to ensure the Independence, Professionalism and the Efficiency of the Police.
It is high time we followed the examples of countries such as the UK, USA and Kenya, who have detached their police from the yoke of politics.
Only then will the motto: ‘Service with Integrity’, become relevant.
Columnist: Michael Kenetey Kofi, Student of GIJ