Monday, 06 July

Arming traffic wardens "dangerous" for civilians; "hasten slowly" – BPS

Armed police officers

The Bureau of Public Safety is calling on the Police Council chaired by Vice-President Dr Mahamudu Bawumia to immediately halt plans to by the Minister for the Interior and the Inspector-General of Police to, henceforth, arm all personnel of the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service.

Just last week, the Director-General of the Public Affairs Directorate of the Ghana Police Service, ACP David Eklu told Class91.3FM’s 12Live mid-day news on Friday, 30 August 2019 that arming traffic wardens was a “possibility”, following a directive to that end by IGP James Oppong-Boanuh and sector minister Ambrose Dery.

The order followed the killing of five police officers within a space of a month – the latest being the murder of two officers with the Motor Traffic and Transport Department (MTTD) of the Ghana Police Service at Kasoa on Wednesday, 28 August.

“From today, we will give MTTD officers weapons,” the IGP said on Thursday, indicating that it was a directive from the Minister for the Interior.

“From now on…police on traffic duties should be armed. I will ask that you [IGP] insist and enforce that strictly”, Mr Dery ordered, adding: “This will enable our men in uniform to effectively exercise their right of self-defence. It will also enable them as police on patrol to fight violent crime”.

In a statement released on Monday, 2 September 2019 and signed by its Executive Director, Nana Yaw Akwada, however, the Bureau said: “It appreciates the need to take immediate, definite and bold steps to ensure the safety of police personnel in the wake of recent deaths of officers in the line of duty”, however, “providing arms and ammunition to all MTTD personnel without first equipping them with the requisite soft skills and also educating or informing citizens about police expectations and the potential repercussions that may accrue from ignoring them, will only aggravate an already conflictive interaction between police and citizens.”

The Bureau, therefore, called for a “holistic intervention to prevent further police-citizen encounters from deteriorating into conflictive interactions.”

It noted that as a precedent to the immediate arming of MTTD personnel, the police administration must institute the following: “Develop and strictly apply standard operating procedures for all police personnel applying themselves in various circumstances requiring/involving citizen engagements; train and retrain police personnel to develop and apply interpersonal skills, de-escalating skills, among other soft skills which are equally crucial to preventing or reducing escalated conflicts that may lead to injuries and loss of lives; inform and educate citizens about police expectations and the likely repercussions that may accrue from ignoring them to help reduce incidences of police-civilian escalated conflicts”.

It also recommended that “all police personnel, not only MTTD personnel, should be equipped with basic policing equipment such as radio, bulletproof vests, a less-lethal tool, and a lethal tool (pistol).”

The Bureau contended that: “Arming all members of the Ghana Police Service or MTTD personnel may be the needful thing to do but doing so in its current state is a dangerous recipe for more aggravated conflicts and murders, especially on the civilian front. This will deteriorate an already-deep-seated mistrust between the police and citizens”.

It has, thus, urged the Minister for the Interior and the Acting IGP to “hasten slowly in their quest to arm personnel of the MTTD.”

The Bureau also extended its “deepest condolences” to the families of the two deceased officers, Sgt. Micheal Dzamesi, and Lance Corporal Awal Mohammed.