Inspecting Ghana’s Police Force

The sun had long set and we were on our way back home late one evening. Something flickered and reflected in my father’s headlights. He switched on his dome light and pulled up slowly to one of the many makeshift police barriers that spring up on the N1 highway after dark and greeting the officer who approached his car – a man half his age – with the cordiality worthy of a superior.

“Good evening, sah,” my dad said quietly. His tone was kind.

“Evening, boss,” the officer replied in equal measure.  He ran the beam of his flashlight over the length our car, peeked inside at me at in the passenger seat, and nodded his head. I was busy staring at the screen of my phone and only looked up to give him a curt nod before I went back to tweeting, texting or whatever I was busy doing. He waved us on. “Please, you may pass.”

My father thanked him, turned off his dome light and pulled off. It’s a scenario that repeats itself all over the Accra metropolis night after night, but something about this encounter struck me as different.

“Daddy, why did you turn on your dome light?” I asked “And why did you thank him so profusely?”

My dad hummed a little and snorted in that way he does when something ironic has suddenly struck him.

“It’s good to be nice to these officers,” he replied. “Many times, all they are looking for is a little bit of respect.”

I snorted and kept my thoughts private. Good luck with that! Ghana police, looking for respect? Ghana police, the most inept force on the planet? Please.

Last year, the Inspector General of Police, Mohammed Ahmed Alhassan urged Ghanaians to be proud of their police force, declaring that they were ‘amongst the finest in the world’. The response from the general public was swift and mocking. Though the force has gotten moderately better in recent years, the Ghana Police Force are still seen as little more than barely literate licensed thugs who exact bribes from the public and routinely abuse their power. They are ill-equipped, always arriving on the scene of a crime when it’s too late and have a poor track record of solving cases. No one has any real confidence in the Ghana police, a fact that they themselves are well aware of.

So when my dad said that all they are looking for is a “little respect”, it made complete sense. Having full knowledge that the public that you have been sworn to protect and serve has little regard for your position or your ability cannot be easy to contend with. People obey the Ghana Police Force because they fear them, not because they believe they are an honorable or competent outfit that is dedicated to defending the masses.

Media headlines concerning the Ghana Police Force are consistently laden with certain themes, most often containing the words “fail”, “beat” and “cannot.”

Armed Robbers Escape Police by Running into the Bush

Police Officer Leaves Driver Unconscious after Beating Him

Officers’ Salaries not Paid for 6 Months

Certainly, the Ghana Police is not an entity in which an ambitious man or woman of distinction wants any association with. Sure, their uniforms are a nice shade of blue, but that doesn’t professionally compensate for the abysmal failure of the Force’s mandate to serve and protect. An encounter with the average Ghana police officer frequently leaves both motorists and pedestrians shaken, furious and bewildered. Very often, they cannot be reasoned with. What sort of training for their profession do they receive that renders them such brutes?

Perhaps the answer lies in this video which is quickly going viral. It shows how a drill sergeant brutalizes his recruits during inspection by beating them on their heads and asking them repeatedly what “S.S.S.” stands for. (Shave, Sh*t and Shine for those who cannot make out the accent.) Wincing in the face of such an attack only rewards the cadet with further blows and mockery. Some of these “men” are little more than boys fresh out of secondary school, some of them obviously very poor. I watched in disbelief as the inspecting officer taunted one cadet for his inappropriate footwear – a pair of white ladies’ walking shoes. Obviously, this was all that the kid could afford.

Now, I ask you reader: If Ghana’s police force is supposed to be amongst the finest in the world as the Inspector General would have us believe, it implies that their training methods, too, are being stacked up against those of the best in the world. Can you imagine police cadets in London, California, Switzerland or even South Africa being subjected to this sort of base treatment? It would never be tolerated!

Unlike a military operation like the Navy SEALS or the Marine Corps where you are trained to undergo and bear physical torture to prepare you for field combat – during which you may be captured by enemy forces – the police are supposed to be the more “cerebral” arm of a nation’s defense. The police deal with the general public on a daily basis, not armed military combatants. They deal with you and me. This sort of ‘training’ only teaches Ghana’s police that it is not only appropriate to physically assault and bully those whom you have a sworn duty to, but it is to be expected! It’s utterly disgusting and a complete disgrace.

As usual, it begs the question: what are we going to do about it? The answer as always lies with leadership.  I am encouraged by Mr. Alhassan’s call for police personnel in various regions to work together to rid the unit of individuals who are tarnishing its reputation and image, but I daresay he may have to begin at the top, not the bottom. We need to rein in this sort of behavior and nip it at the bud, because it cannot be allowed to fester. Beating people in the head never produced a modern, thinking individual. Beating people in the head has given us the Ghana police force as you see it today!

What do you think of this video? Do you think it reflects the “best”? Were you as shocked as I was?!