Survey of Visibility Policing Initiative (VPI) in Ghana and General impression of the public on the
The Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) wish to salute the IGP and all servicemen within the Ghana Police Service for effective policing during the yuletide and the New Year festive season, and especially for the consistency, professionalism and the deftness demonstrated in the visibility policing initiative (VPI) so far. The Bureau wishes to commend the many officers, men and women of the police service who at the peril of their lives left the warmth of family life and pitched tents in the highways and byways looking out for the safety of the public. The BPS strongly believes that the relative peace, order and tranquility experienced during the Christmas and the New Year season was largely due to the Visibility Policing Initiative (VPI). Visibility policing (VP) is a new concept embraced by countries to integrate policing into the social system and bring it closer to the general public. It ensures that public order and social peace is maintained while preventing and/or minimizing violent crime.
The Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) monitored a total of twenty-seven (27) duty posts across five (4) major cities and a town in the northern region, namely Accra, Tema, Kumasi, Takoradi and Navrongo. The BPS interacted with over one hundred and fifty police officers at various duty posts establishing conditions at posts and of work. We also surveyed impressions of the public on their view of the Visibility Policing Initiative (VPI). Below is a summary of the survey findings and recommendations.
VISIBILITY POLICING INITIATIVE
Arms and ammunitions support:
Ongoing debates about arming the police across the world is not conclusive, as the subject is always examined within the context of a prevailing environment and culture. The survey revealed that 67% of the VP team deployed was without arms (rifles or pistols). The police’s backup strategy to dispatch a SWAT or a Rapid Response Team in an emergency is laudable, but we are of the conviction that frontline police officers run a very high risk of being targeted during a violent crime; and as such should be empowered to protect themselves and to match violent crime. Police administration should therefore commit to a systematic and gradual arming of the visibility team if this cannot be implemented as a one-off initiative.
55.6% of duty posts surveyed were without motor bikes, vans, or vehicles. We observed a high concentration of availability of motorbikes, vehicles, and vans in Accra. There were a few in Kumasi, Takoradi, Navrongo and none in Tema. While the BPS appreciates scarcity of resources and logistics confronting the police force we recommend that motor bikes be provided at an interval of one to two kilometer range to effectively improve personnel mobility in response to crime and enhance visibility.
Provision of temporary tents/ canopies at posts:
The survey revealed that a 74.1% of the duty posts had no tents or canopies for officers and men rotating on duty schedules at their various posts. Officers and men usually resorted to sitting on stones, gallons and other undesirable items under trees, huge billboards, perching behind kiosks and on verandas just to escape the scorch of the sun and other weather vagaries. Whilst this phenomenon has a tendency of keeping the police at a significant distance away from their duty posts, it has the potential of demotivating them in the long run thereby impacting negatively on the quality of policing. The BPS recommends a thorough examination of all duty posts and provide accordingly, where there are no shades in proximity, tents or canopies in addition with chairs (50% less of total officers on duty at a particular post).
Furthermore the Bureau of Public Safety (BPS) observed a change-over gap during the survey. This was observed between the hours of 2:00pm and 3:30pm. Further checks by the BPS revealed that this gap was necessitated by transportation challenges and pre operation parades. The BPS suggests that various commands across the country that experiences such challenges evaluate the change-over process to ensure seamless continuity in service.
Radio communication: The BPS observed that over 90% of duty posts had access to dedicated radio communication devices. This, we believe is very critical to effective policing as information relaying and dissemination in policing is vital to combating and containing crime. While we strongly believe that officers may sometimes and indeed often use their cell phones to communicate or transmit vital information when on duty, it is important for the police authorities to deliver policing service in a more secured environment and in a professional manner, by providing dedicated radio devices to the remaining 7% or so who are without radio communication device.
Toilets/Restrooms: It was evident that there was not a designated facility for place of convenience, and officers could not identify a common place of responding to such inconveniences. Officers resorted to hiding behind structures, walking deep into the bush, returned to base stations, homes or occasionally approached occupiers of facilities to comfort themselves. The situation is even direr for the female officers, especially during their menstrual periods. The absence of such a facility creates a gap in the policing operation that might be identified and exploited by criminal minds or unsuspecting individuals. We implore the police administration to appeal to nearby house owners or facility owners to share in this responsibility in the short term while they (police administration) make medium and long term arrangements for mobile facilities to take care of such natural needs.
GENERAL PUBLIC SURVEY
The general public survey was aimed at determining the general impression of the public towards the VPI and to ascertain the extent to which the initiative is visible to the public. The survey covered 70% females and 30% males. The overall impression gathered of the VPI among the sampled population was generally good. However, the survey revealed very pertinent issues that should be of concern to the police administration and the public. 85% of respondents said they feel safe when they see the visibility team around, as against 11% saying that they did not feel safe, with only 4% saying they did not care. On how visible the police have been on the highways/major intersections: 85% said they saw the police as against 15% of respondents who claimed they did not see the police. Asked whether they saw the police within the neighborhood, 59% said they saw the police as against 41% who did not see the police in their neighborhood. While BPS appreciates that visibility policing is a new concept, its impact on crime prevention, social order, and public peace cannot be underestimated. The BPS therefore wishes to submit the following for consideration:
- That the concept of VP is a very useful initiative and must not be discontinued or halted at any time without putting in place a measure that will deter criminals and maintain social peace and order.
- That the police administration subjects the VPI to a comprehensive nationwide evaluation in order to fully appreciate the strengths and weaknesses within the system; identify gaps that may impact negatively on the program or are likely to be identified by criminal minds for future exploitation.
- That the administration expands the VPI deep into inhabited communities while they maintain the current system of rotation between duty posts. We are of the opinion that crimes are hatched within neighborhoods, and perpetrators of violent crimes are most likely to strike if they anticipate an inferior force coming up against them. Therefore if the VPI is expanded into inhabited communities it is likely to impact on the rate and severity of domestic violent crimes.
- That, the Administration provides resource to newly created Visibility units across the country by officially instituting a co-sharing of premises with existing Police stations, providing duty post logistics, suitable buildings for offices, office equipment, etc. to enable them function more professionally and efficiently. It is very demotivating and indeed not dignifying of a public officer to be sitting on stones, gallons and sometimes the bare floor within our cities and towns while on duty. That, welfare packages such as lunch, among others provided in Accra is replicated across the country to avoid demotivating officers in other regions.
- That the police administration investigates the underlying cause(s) of the 15% of respondents who said they either do not feel safe or do not care even in police presence and do not think that the presence of the police helps deter criminals.
In conclusion, we trust that this publication will attract the attention of the Ghana Police Service high command, the media and other stakeholders to engender a national discussion on the visibility policing initiative, its successes, challenges and expectations from the general public.