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Who Will Change the Public Perception Of The Nigerian Police?

By Jemima Kennedy

From Scotland Yard in the UK to Louis Edet House in Nigeria and from the Police Bureau of Investigation in Bangladesh to the Prefectural Police Department Security Bureau in Tokyo, the primary responsibilities of the Police, the world over, are virtually the same. Constitutionally, the primary function of the Police is the maintenance of public order through crime detection and prevention so as to safeguard the lives of citizens and their property. It was for this reason that the phrase ‘’the Police is your friend’’ is universally acceptable.

Even in the advanced countries that are over-Policed, crime resulting from any act of commission or omission occurs, sometimes very frequently. In Britain and America, there are a plethora of cases of gangsterism where the ‘’hobos’’ just kill for economic gains, pride or for racial reasons. Serial killings, robbery, rape and similar crimes are almost daily occurrences. Across the Atlantic, some blame the frequency of crime on ‘’gun control’’ laws and deep-seated racial, primordial sentiments.

Some people find a convenient label such as poverty, poor environmental factors, frustration, anomie and sometimes deviant behaviour occasioned by the use of banned substances as the casual factors. Thus, the Police, especially the professionally trained Police has an additional responsibility of investigating crimes with a view to finding out the causalities and apprehend the culprits and to prevent crime prevention.

In Nigeria, the potency of the Police in investigation crime is diminishing as public confidence on the Police as being eroded. The public perception is that the Police are biased in favour of the rich against the poor. When a matter involves the rich and the poor, investigation is usually titrated in favour of the rich, so we have a situation where the average Nigerian does not find solace in the Police any longer, the ability of the Police to fight crime and capacity to investigate has been attenuated by poor motivation; their lives are not insured, so if a Policeman dies in active service, the deceased is given a befitting burial often without compensation to the bereaved family. There is low self-esteem of the Police and members are willing to put in their best. Poorly motivated Police that is left out of all welfare schemes cannot be affective. The disillusionment of the Police affects their effectiveness and productivity on the job.

Again, the capacity of the Police to prevent crime through investigation depends on how well the force is trained. Police training is often politicized. Motivation theories emphasize psychological needs as a morale booster for performance. Training in weapon handling, investigation, logistics and security are key to the performance of members of the Police. Thus we have a Police, whose skills are not sharpened; working in a hostile environment with low self-esteem, poor dressing and other unedifying conditions of service. The result is that the Nigerian State has created a Police that is shabby, with officers looking frustrated, poorly kitted, using outdated weapons, dilapidated vehicles because of poor maintenance culture, ill-trained, ill-motivated, lacking in espirit ‘d corps and unable to investigate and tackle trans-border crimes. The perception of the public is that the Nigerian Police even abates crime for pecuniary reason’s, ill-trained and ill-equipped to fight crime, a Police that is unable to hold its head high because of lack of comradeship, ill-prepared to prevent crime and thereby making society very unsafe. The ordinary Nigerians see the Police not ‘’as a friend’’ but as a companion that can only be tolerated. In the event of any crime, most people resort to self-help instead of involving the Police because of the belief that the Police is incapable of conducting thorough investigations to prevent crime.

We have a Nigerian public that has no trust and confidence in the Police. This has been worsened by separatist agitations, in the North by Boko Haram; in the East by the Biafrans, in the West by O‘dua People Republic and in the South by the Niger Delta Republic. The agitations have also increased gun-running and the proliferation of light weapons. All these developments feed into the terrorist infrastructure in Africa and the Mideast. With the perception that we have an unsafe Police, the attitude of the citizen has been that of insecurity, self-help, apathy hiring of private security and a feeling that the Nigerian State has no regard for the lives, limbs and property of her citizens. The implication is that the ordinary citizen finds it difficult to co-operate with the Police at check-points, in the office and even at crime scenes.

Police investigation Reports are often disregarded because of allegation that such reports are compromised. More often than not, people who are innocent are arrested to crowd the prisons while the culprits are freed. The Nigerian Police has a huge image of bribery and corruption handing over her logo. There is an unedifying image of crisis of confidence and lack of comradeship in the in the Police. Nigerians (not all) are of the opinion that we have an institution that has been rendered ineffective by lacking of training, a politicized leadership, a Police that is not citizen-centered; lacking the capacity to reform, to protect public assets and private citizens.

The knotty question is, with the poor public perception of the citizens about the Nigerian Police? What strategies should we adopt to change the negative perception to re-position the Police?

Some criminologists believe that the veritable starting point is to reform the mindset of Police officers especially its rank and file. While it has been underscored that more Policemen/women be recruited, it is also necessary to emphasize that the use of the Police should be maximized. Too many Policemen are deployed to provide security for politicians and other privileged people. It the society is safe and well-Policed, emphasis on individual policing would be minimized. Police training and welfare should not be politicized while promotion should be done as at when due. To enhance the operational efficiency of the Police, government should procure state-of-the-art gadget for effective communication crime detection, prevention and the conduct of forensic audits. At a time when the centrifugal forces are pulling the nation and threatening her corporate existence, it will not be out of place to entrench state and community policing and integrate Policemen as indispensable members of the civil community – a situation whereby the people will know the Police and vice versa.

Ostensibly, it will be proper to abolish the quota system in recruiting and promoting Police officers, more importantly, recognizing the role of the Police in the criminal Justice system, a dozen forensic laboratories should be established and scattered around the Police commands in Nigeria. To remove the negative public perception of the Police, the indiscriminate use of Siren and escorts should be moderated. This will reduce thuggery and corruption in the rank and file of Police. The slogan of the Police may also be changed.

With a change in the mindset of the Police, improved welfare and motivation and procurement of better equipment especially communication gadgets, not only will the public image of the Police improve; it will also re-position the Police in crime prevention, protection of lives and property and above all play its constitutional role in the criminal justice system. Ultimately it is when government and the Police work in synergy that the much-desired perception change of the Police can happen. For our collective security and crime prevention, the Nigerian Police cry for restructuring.

Idumange John Is a student of Criminology and Penology, Nigeria

Your Comment

Monday Akpan | 6/19/2018 12:43:00 AM
From all indications, it appears the police are disturbed about their present image'reputation. If they were, they would be sincere in their strategies and tactics of image management.