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RECENT HAPPENINGS - Abuse of power in the time of COVID-19 - from a Member

May 04, 20 - Comments

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I would like to thank the security services, including the Ghana Police Service, for honoring their commitment to serve and protect during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, while some are discharging their solemn duty in earnest, many of their colleagues don’t seem to grasp the enormity of the challenges we are facing.

On 12 April 2020, the police on duty at the Manet junction checkpoint on the Spintex Road arrested my son for allegedly blowing his horn as he approached the checkpoint. Both my son and his passenger expressed surprise since he had not blown his horn and neither of them had heard any horn honking either. Nevertheless, the officers at the point arrested him and took him to the nearby LEKMA police station and jailed him in a cell containing several other people.

When my son called me from there, I could hear at least one officer shouting, so I asked whether they were all wearing masks. No, they weren’t, was the answer. What I saw upon arrival at my neighborhood police station truly frightened me, for the frontline officers I met and talked to were obviously clueless that it’s a new day, and we are living in perilous times. Nobody at the station was wearing a mask, not the officers, who told me they hadn’t been supplied with masks, nor any of the several detainees I saw sitting close to each other on benches inside the station. No masks, no physical distancing, no apparent awareness of the raging public health crisis that is consuming our national resources—from the public treasury to the attention of our president and governmental agencies to community leaders who are striving to help the most vulnerable.

The president has ordered people to stay at home and limit their outings to essential services of the type my son was providing, and that if we must go out, we should observe “social distancing” to reduce the risks of spreading COVID-19 infections. In obedience, yesterday was the first time I ventured outside my gate since that directive. I was compelled to proceed to the police station to bail my son because the police had compromised his safety for the alleged offense of blowing his horn!

In an effort to prevent the spread of the disease, the IGP has gone so far as to direct the suspension of routine vehicular checks and instructed commanders to grant police enquiry bail to offenders of misdemeanors without keeping them in cells. Despite these precautions by their leadership, the law enforcement officers in my neighborhood are actually flouting the directives of both the IGP and of their commander-in-chief and endangering innocent lives, including their own, in the process.

Public health and other experts are still racing to learn all they can about the virus. They don’t yet know how changing weather will impact the transmission rates of COVID-19 as the countries of the southern hemisphere, such as Ghana, move into our own “winter” season.

What we do know for sure is that prevention has never been more important in our fight to keep our populations healthy and safe. We simply cannot afford to repeat the nightmare scenarios that are still unfolding even in the well-resourced countries in the northern hemisphere.

We are grateful for the sacrifices of our frontline service providers, and we look forward to the time when we have successfully weathered this storm and can convey our appreciation through deeds rather than mere words. We plead though that they remember that they are role models. The public assumes that our security personnel are better trained and more informed than the average citizen; when uniformed law enforcers flout the law of the land, misguided others may follow suit. I pray that the authorities will take steps to reduce the recurrence of ill-advised arrests and detentions.

Post-script: After what I witnessed last night, I was able to get a few bottles of sanitizer and liquid soap to another checkpoint in my area, and I plan to do more in my community, but why in heaven’s name are our officers performing hazardous duty without the basic protections afforded by masks, sanitizers, soap, etc.?!

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