By SAM IGBE
ONE may ask why they would not refuse to part with their money as bribes to police officers. Perhaps if they do this, the road sides would be congested with parked vehicles, and the police stations would be crowded up with people who would have been ordered to wait or park, in which case there would be reactions, either from the supervising officers or from the public.
In defending one’s right, one needs to make some sacrifice even if it results in wasting some time. Without attempting to hold brief for the police, it is necessary to bear in mind that their general activities are clear manifestations and reflections of growing negative norms which are obvious indications of collective societal failure. If the Nigeria Police must improve, therefore, the authorities, nay the society, must take a hard look into all aspects of its administration with the aim of putting things in their right perspective.
Society must realize that in our circumstances, the police is, if you like, a necessary evil. It would require sincere and adequate funding for the provision of welfare and training needs, and for all necessary working equipment if it must be run as a productive police force worthy of its name. These necessities must be met irrespective of the fact that policemen do not appear friendly to the public. The authorities of society who enforce laws and implement regulations are not generally friends of those on the receiving end of the laws, yet they must be enabled to do their jobs properly.
The image of the police has been created from its infancy, and it seems to worsen. Today, the approach to their duties is bad, their uniform is unattractive, even inconsistent, and, they are corrupt and untrustworthy. Their working vehicles even create a bad image. Fellowship with members of the public reveals that criminals sometimes get informed about channels of information about them and this endangers lives of informants. No wonder the lack of trust, and the reason why the public would rather not offer any information to the police, and why they would appear not to appreciate their work.
They nevertheless, need to appreciate that the police cannot serve them fully and properly without their collaboration through the offer of information. They must help the police to help them. However, it is crucial and essential that police authorities should do something about these complaints. The image must change even if they have to consult professionals to launder the image, and do a complete rebranding of the police force.
Before taking on this repositioning job, however, the senior officers need to do a proper evaluation of their own duties and ensure that they tighten up on the performances to encourage the junior officers to perform theirs without fail. There appear to be apparent lack of the necessary daily supervision exercises. All round routine visits to police stations by senior officers for regular inspection of daily records to ensure proper administration of incarceration cells, to look at crime reports and asses investigation of cases, and to carry out regular tours of police formations and their barracks, to assess hygienic situations and welfare needs, are a far cry from the necessary official requirements. Township and community patrols for first-hand knowledge of daily incidents and happenings around cities and towns are nearly dead, and junior officers are left to their whims and caprices. These functions must be revived if high standards of policing must be achieved to enhance police reputation. Having regards to their attitude to, and understanding of their duties, there are a few core issues which must be dealt with.
The first, a sore matter, is the constant breach of the law and instructions regulating the grant of bail to suspects in police stations. The working of these rules in police stations makes nonsense of bail instructions, including the notice regarding the granting of bails on station bill boards that bail is free. It is really not the suspects or their relations that need this information in the circumstances.
It is the station personnel that should have the law and instructions forced down their mentality. One wonders at the brazen disobedience of the law and instructions regarding bail, and cannot but think that command and divisional officers themselves encourage station officers in this blatant and serious dereliction of duty. Hard and expensive bargainings for bail are regular actions in police stations and would require strong proactive measures to terminate them. This requirement is urgent.
To the general public, it is doubly offensive for the police to deliberately promote, through the performance of their duties those offences which they are employed to, and are therefore expected to prevent. A common example occurs quite often when a police officer stops a vehicle on the highway and after pretending to have inspected the vehicle, modishly proceeds to ask for some gratification for a perceived offence. A passenger interjects that he is wasting their time but he insists that unless they pay up, he is not about to let them go. When the passenger attempts a glimpse at his number or his name plate, he gets nearer, and pushing his chest forward requests him to take his name or his number and report to Jonathan.
Such so-called public servants are actually getting more notorious for their annoying show of impunity and lack of respect for the job that feeds them. In view of the fact that the basic necessary behaviour of the young officers seems to recede in arithmetic progression, one would like to suggest that the police authorities may find it necessary to include the following points in the basic training and their on-the-job lecture programmes:
•An exclusive and generally patient approach, and a definite knowledge of what to say on the first duty encounter with a member of the public.
•Framing the required questions, and coming up with the caution of a suspect when it becomes necessary. So when does the caution become necessary? The position appears lost.
•At what point does a police investigating officer arrest and or charge a suspect for an offence?
•When, and for what reasons do you detain a suspect?
•What are the purposes for road blocks, and when are road blocks necessary?
The Nigeria Police already works with a public relations department. It would appear, however that they are almost always engaged in denying public accusations and defending police actions. This should be done only when it promotes police image; and the department should be strengthened to promote and enhance good working relations with the public. The department should institute principles to instill the facts that
•the police are servants rather than the masters of the people they serve. • humility costs nothing but buys everything. It can only help to be humble in performing their duties. They should seek to record the sour aspects of police duties and activities and what the people say about the police, and formulate remedies within police actions and activities to ameliorate the situation. It would appear, but the reasons are not quite apparent that the police authorities have gradually phased out the uses and importance of the police pocket note book. It appears to me about time to return it to its proper prime position in the performance of police duties.
The character and the ambience of Nigeria have unfortunately been polluted with corruption, no thanks to the present understanding of politics. The police which, to all intents and purposes, should be the nation’s holder of the recipe against this odious phenomenon seem to generally out-do the rest of their country-men in its practices. Corruption is a crime, and like all crimes, it is a ruinous and degenerating influence on the national psyche. The police must purge itself of this crime and purge the rest of us of it.