SARS: Need To Review Extant Entry Requirement And Mode Of Dressing
Since a video appeared on Saturday, October 3, 2020, on social media showing a team of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) of the Nigeria Police allegedly shooting and killing a young man, Nigerians have been calling for the disbandment of SARS. The reaction of a wide spectrum of the population of Nigerian youths, no doubt, ostensibly did not go down well with the leadership of the Nigeria Police. Against the foregoing background, the police authority immediately went on a sporadic damage control, unarguably to douse the tension. In a statement issued by the Delta Police Command, the development was said to been false and misleading as they maintained that the victim was neither shot nor killed by the policemen.
The command also revealed through the Police Public Relation Officer (PPRO), DSP Onome Onovwakpoyeya, that the police operatives involved were not SARS operatives as earlier reported. Unfortunately, the foregoing confutation did not stop the youths from literarily spilling out into the streets nationwide to protest against the alleged killing.
It is expedient in this context to recall that before Nigerians began to protest against the reprehensible act that the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), Mohammed Adamu had on October 4, 2020 banned the personnel of the Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) and other tactical squads of the force from routine patrols.
Other tactical squads affected by the ban include the Special Tactical Squad, Intelligence Response Team, Anti-Cultism Squad and other tactical squads operating at the federal, zonal and command levels. They were banned from carrying out routine patrols and other conventional low-risk duties notably stop and search duties, checkpoints, mounting of roadblocks, traffic checks among others.
At this juncture, one cannot but ask, “If the SARS has been banned by the apex police officer in the country, the Inspector General of Police, why are Nigerians still insisting that it should be banned?” Without resort to somewhat underserved castigation of the police authority, it is obvious that Nigerians did not believe the IG that the squad has truly been disbanded. The reason for the deep level of distrust that trailed the IGP’s statement cannot be farfetched as the ban makes it the fourth time in four years. To most Nigerians, it has been a vicious cycle of ban and promised reformation of the Squad.
To my view, the importance of higher education in SARS has been long debated. While some have argued that the WASC/GCE academic requirement for entry-level positions into the Nigerian Police may not be adequate enough, others have argued that education cannot guarantee ideal reformation in SARS. While disagreeing with those that argued that education cannot guarantee ideal reformation in the police formation, it is expedient to remind them that researches that suggest that a positive correlation between education and job performance at all levels of law enforcement abound.
Against the foregoing backdrop, if the statement made by the Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Police, Mr. Frank Mba, a deputy commissioner of police (DCP), prevailed against existing public opinion that SARS should be disbanded, then it means an upward review of the entry requirement into the police and changing the mode of dressing of SARS officers will be obligatory.
In fact, the ongoing calls for the disbandment of SARS, combined with mounting evidence that an educated police force can have numerous positive effects have sparked a nationwide conversation about raising education requirements for police officers.
So, while some police officers may not have needed, at least, a university degree or a higher diploma from the polytechnic in the past, times are rapidly changing. Today, there is a case to be made that the police needs leaders who are equipped with 21st century skills that go beyond traditional police academy.
There is no denying the fact that the minimum qualification required of a 21st century police officer should be Bachelor degree or a higher diploma.
The reason for the foregoing advocacy or suggestion cannot be farfetched as a highly educated policeman will have what it takes to perform community policing even as such disposition will help in strengthening trust among them and the communities they serve.
With changing face of crime that has been manifesting in the form of terrorism, evolving technologies, rising immigration, changing laws, new appreciation of cultural mores and a growing mental health crisis, there is no denying the fact that the skills and knowledge required to effectively deal with these issues requires a higher level of education as well as extensive and ongoing training in specific disciplines.
In fact, it cannot be pooh-poohed that working closely and forming relationships with citizens from varied backgrounds, socio-economic groups and ethnicities require a very socially intelligent and culturally aware police officer. Background materials gathered online concerning what obtains in other countries, particularly in America and Europe, show that officers who have undergone the rigors of university education are much more adept and used to solving problems, thinking creatively and exhibiting open-mindedness. Clearly, officers who have completed a university degree in addition to having field experience and regular in-service training are particularly well-positioned for success with community policing efforts.
Another area the police authority should look into again is in the aspect of the tattered mode of dressing of SARS Operatives. Recall that in, 2019, Inspector Micheal Olubode, a policeman attached to the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), faced an internal disciplinary action for dressing improperly. The disclosure was made by the Nigeria Police. Olubode’s mode of dressing caught the attention of Nigeria the public in one of the pictures posted on Nigeria police’s twitter handle. He was seen dressed in a black strip jeans trouser with a black cap flipped backwards accompanied with a black sunglass.
He also wore a black sleeveless jacket on top of an open black inner-wear, whilst he was also carrying a gun posing as a police officer. Nigerians for weeks circulated his pictures on social media platforms, expressing disapproval at the security officer’s mode of dressing.
Against the foregoing backdrop, most Nigerians have been criticizing the Nigeria police for not enforcing its code of dressing to security personnel, particularly SARS officials. It is not as if the police have not reined in SARS operatives that have resorted to improper dressing but the fact cannot be ignored that it is by each passing day becoming a norm. As independently gathered by this writer, the indecent mode of dressing which SARS operatives have become accustomed to have become worrisome to many Nigerians as it is becoming difficult for them to discern the look of a criminal from that of SARS operatives.
Again, Nigerians cannot forget in a hurry when a photo of ‘SARS officials’ dressed like ‘armed robbers’ causes outrage on Twitter.
The SARS officials in dreadlocks were adorned dark glasses, with little or nothing to identify them as law enforcement agents. The photo as expected instantly became a source of huge criticism on the social media.
According to the picture which went viral, the only sign that the men could be SARS operatives was the ‘F-SARS’ inscription that was barely visible on the patrol waistcoat they wore.
Two of the ‘SARS personnel’ spotted dreadlocks, and the other with a bald head, had bloodshot eyes. Two also had big eyeglasses resting on their heads, while one wore what looked like a necklace. All three posed with their AK 47 rifles.
To my view, if SARS is to be reformed, and not disbanded, the Police Service Commission (PSC) should look into the two critical areas that this writer dwelt on in this piece.
To this end, one will not fail to applaud the commission for quickly responding to the ongoing public outcry on the brazen abuse of office by personnel of both the FSARS and SARS and other special Units attached to the office of the IGP and the seeming lack or absence of supervision by relevant supervisory authorities.
The Commission in its statement posted on its website urged Nigerians to take advantage of its communication platforms to send complaints on any Police officer found to be compromising on his or her rule of engagement. These Platforms are; Telephone (texts only) 07034072677; 07034072676; Email; [email protected]; twitter handle; @PoliceserviceC2 and Website; www.psc.gov.ng.
The leadership of the PSC assured that its vision is to build a highly motivated, professional, disciplined and accountable Police Service that upholds human rights to improve service delivery in the Nigeria Police Force