Human beings will always remain humans; they will always want to cut corners to make life easier for themselves and end up causing inconvenience for others or breaching the laws of the land.
They only behave well when they know they are being watched.
Though there are laws regulating every society to ensure that its inhabitants conduct themselves in a generally acceptable manner in order to make the society a place worth living in, human beings per their nature are bound to violate these laws either deliberately or inadvertently.
It is for this reason that every country has a police force to maintain law and order within its jurisdiction. They ensure laws are obeyed and deviants are brought to book in accordance with the law, so as to deter others from doing same.
This is not to say that the police are supposed to be perfect, but they are expected to live up to a certain standard by virtue of their training and the nature of their work.
However, some police officers are so lawless that it becomes difficult at times to appreciate the relevance of their existence. As for their complicity and connivance with criminals in perpetrating high degree crimes, it is another topic for a different write-up.
It will be unfair to sweepingly conclude that every police officer is lawless. Of course there are honourable officers in the system who are doing their work with diligence and fear of God.
Having said that, it seems the police service has become numb to perceptions backed by numerous surveys that it is the most corrupt institution in the country. With this notoriety and numbness, some officers go about conducting themselves in ways contrary to the law and create the impression that they are above the law.
In civilized and advanced countries police officers do better than just seizing the driving licenses of drivers at the least offence, but the laws of Ghana give its police officers the power to do that, but with a caveat.
It is believed that for officers not to abuse this power that is why according to the Head of Education Research and Training at the Motor Transport and Traffic Unit (MTTU), DSP Alexander Obeng, it is only inspectors that have the mandate to seize drivers’ licenses.
He said emphatically as quoted by Ghana web that, "only inspectors are qualified to seize licenses from drivers."
The reason for that caveat, a former Board Member of the Driver Vehicle and Licensing Authority (DVLA), Matthew Hayford said is because "inspectors are more responsible than the others even though they are equally qualified."
However, due to lack of monitoring and supervision mechanisms coupled with the ignorance of some members of the public, any police officer at all gets up, stops a vehicle and seizes the driver’s license.
Even on the motorway, it is common to see some police officers stop cars and make them park along the road posing danger to other vehicles and road users.
Yes it is true some drivers misbehave on the roads including the motorway, for which reason accident on the roads are as often as we see and hear about.
But could there not be a way to track errant drivers and punish them other than the way some police officers go about it punishing passengers onboard the vehicles even more than the errant driver?
It is annoying when workers onboard a given car who are either hurrying to work or returning home hungry and tired are subjected to unwarranted delays by a police officer for as long as it pleases him or unless the driver does the obvious ‘thing’.
Someone may argue that the police officer is ensuring the safety of the passengers as well, but you can’t punish everybody because a certain driver has misbehaved.
Sometimes, because a driver of a given car has been arrested, all passengers have to disembark and stand by the road and begin to look for another vehicle before they can continue their journey, and the police officer cares less.
Imagine getting to work late because of the lawless conduct of a police officer and your superiors are intolerant to such a silly excuse for your lateness. You surely will be losing your job.
Aside the possible consequences on the individuals, national productivity is also affected, because when workers who are already grappling with terrible traffic congestions have their plights compounded by reckless police officers, they get to work late and already exhausted and the effect on productivity is obvious.
Another act of lawlessness by police officers can be seen when you travel out of Accra to the rural areas. Take for instance the adjoining road to the Accra-Aflao road that leads to Anloga and Keta. Aside the road tolls that drivers pay to the state, some police officers have mounted an invisible tollbooths on that road, after exiting Dabala.
They make huge monies at the end of each market day and account to nobody. It will be surprising for their station officers to claim innocence of this.
Taxi drivers who ply that road load seven people in the cars instead of five including the driver, and sometimes pregnant women are also subjected to this torture.
When you enquire from the drivers they fearlessly tell you that they are loading the extra passengers for the police officers on the road, because they no longer take anything less than GHS5.00 each time they use the road.
And truly when the car gets to the police, you will be shocked to realize that they do not even pay attention to how overloaded the car is or whether it is in good shape or the driver is driving it right. All they are in a hurry to take is their GHS5.00 and the rest is their back case.
You can imagine the amount of money police officers are making from each driver at the end of the day, depending on the number of times each car uses the road.
It is more or less like police officers holding shares in every car that plies that particular road, and what is more intriguing is that they are only seen on that particular spot only on Dabala market days.
Another area police’s lawlessness can be found is when either you or a relative finds him/herself behind bars and it comes to bailing the fellow.
Per the laws of this country and what is known worldwide as best practice, when the police arrest somebody suspected to have breached the law in any way, family or relatives of the said suspect are not required to pay money before the suspect is released on bail. Even at the courts, bailing is supposed to be done without charges.
But anybody who has found him/herself or a relative in the grips of the police before would attest to the fact that police charge huge monies before granting bail to suspected offenders.
The then Director of Police Public Relations, Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Cephas Arthur is on record to have warned in an interview with Today Newspaper that, "bailing suspects in police stations is still free, one should pay money for it in Ghana again." He stressed that the police service "have a zero tolerance for that: paying money to free suspects in police stations in Ghana. I am appealing to members of the public, do not corrupt policemen and women. It is against the law of Ghana Police Service."
DSP Arthur further entreated the public that, "If police officers ask you for bribe and you refuse to give, and you have avenues where your grievances can be ventilated, I do not see any reason why you should give them bribe. The Commissioner of Police is there, the Inspector General of Police is there, the Director of CID is there, our office is there and the technical platform. ...we have opened ourselves to public accountability, so report any police officer who demands money from you before bail.”
But is that what happens on the ground? The answer is a big NO. What they do when relatives arrive at the station is to put up an unfriendly posturing to intimidate and make them desperate, especially when the arrest is made on Friday, suggesting that the suspect would have to spend more than the 48 hours in cells contrary to what is stipulated by the law.
Ignorant relatives then kowtow to any demands made by the lawless police officers just to get their relatives out of jail as quickly as possible.
They take these monies without issuing any receipt to the payee because it is illegal and not refundable.
Recently, a certain Togolese based in Ghana was arrested by the Madina police on suspicion of defilement. The man spent close to two weeks in police cells and they could not find any evidence to prosecute him, yet they demanded Ghs 1,500 from the man after reportedly admitting that they did not see any basis to continue keeping him in custody or arraign him.
Friends and family of the man had to mobilise monies from diverse sources to bail him, and the man is currently struggling to pay back those monies contributed to his bailing.
Again, do not ride motorbike without helmets. That is what the law says without giving the police any immunity, but often times you see police officers ride motorbikes without one, as if they are insulated against accidents. However, they have the guts to arrest civilians for doing same. Sometimes, they even patronize the illegal Okada (commercial motorbikes) without helmets.
It is interesting that a civilian cannot question the police officer when he/she breaches the law.
That was why when one journalist questioned a police officer in the Western region last year for lawlessly riding a motorbike without helmets, he got further lawless and lawlessly dragged the journalist out of the car he was onboard and lawlessly assaulted him.
What lawless police officers hate to hear is for a civilian to tell them ‘I know my right’. They often times want to deal with uneducated people who they can easily exploit and take advantage of.
These and many more are the reasons why when the police tops in corruption perception surveys in Ghana, it is not news.
If the Ghana Police Service and the police council really want to restore good name to the service and win back public confidence, then the hierarchy of the service and the council must institute strict monitoring and supervision measures to check the conduct of officers, especially those in other parts of the country other than Accra.
This is the only way the police service can regain some integrity and credibility.