We all had dreams when we were growing up. Some of my friends wanted to be soldiers, others doctors and there were those who wanted to be carpenters as well as masons. I had so much love for the Police uniform and that was the only job that l wanted. There was so much fascination with the Police Service in those days for various reasons.
I admired the uniform because of the colour and the fact that they had control over other people’s lives. In days past, there was this dreaded visit from the Policeman with the message, “Massa say make l bring you.” You dared not refuse. There was no way that you could make the messenger change his mind. You would have to stop all you are doing to attend to this call. For me, it would have been a joy to join the Police Service in order to get the opportunity to go and get AtaaFio, the man who stole goats in the neighbourhood arrested and yet no one did anything to him.
In addition to this, l grew up at the time of “Aban.” This was the nickname given to that special policeman who never took bribes and would rather direct drivers who offered to give him ‘something’ for their offences, to “go and give it to Aban.” I was also a fan of the dancing Policeman who directed traffic around Accra with moves that made Michael Jackson look like a novice. This man was so popular with his dancing skills that the weekly newspaper, Mirror, featured him on its pages.
There was also another Policeman that l admired. He was alleged to have refused a bribe from the late President HillaLimann when he was escaping from arrest after the December 31 Coup. We all spoke highly of this man who could see money and turn it down because he was very patriotic. Sadly, the same man fell for some bribe later in life. There was also another reason why l really wanted to be a Policeman. The Special Branch, which later became Bureau of National Investigations (BNI) was then an organ of the Police Service and its officers were rumouredto be those people who reported the bad nuts to government.
Anytime there was any report of a foiled coup attempt, you were sure that Special Branch officers had played a role. The fact that these officers were like James Bond, and got to know what others would never know, made me want to be part of them. I fantasised about moving in the dark behind those who wanted to take over Broadcasting House and then report them to my superior officers.
Then things changed. A certain Prophetess who lived near Nima, prophesised that after the death of “Aban” things were bound to change. She said, the Police were going to take money from people and those who did not give, will pay dearly for it. Since my mother attended Brother Lawson’s Church, we were made to hate bribery. The Sunday School Teacher told us, those who took money from others to hide crime were sinners and l didn’t want to go to Hell as we were told.
The Prophetess, was not like any of the latter day ones who only talk about the death of musicians. Prophets of those days spoke about national issues and she was the one who told us that, Police officers like the dancing Policeman and the likes of the one who refused the bribe, were just things of the past, Ghana will not see people like these again. Ever! Most Ghanaians thought it was a joke until recent events came to prove the Prophetess right.
Today, the Police officers have perfected a plan. If you are arrested on a Friday, they will put you behind bars and then find a way of the investigating officer evaporating into thin air. This means that you will spend the weekend as an unwilling guest of the Police. But this trick is a bad one that can be changed. All that is required is for the Chief Justice to put in place a system where duty judges are appointed to sit outside office hours to deliberate on human right breaches. I am not one to deny anybody his right to freedom. So, l do not want to be part of a Police system that does not respect the people’s right.
I grew up to realise that other countries do not do things the way we do it. I have seen the perfect system at work. My friend was to be deported from one European country a few years ago. The Police had gone for him on a Friday evening, detained him for a few hours and sent him to the Airport on the night of the following day, which was a Saturday to wait for his flight. His lawyer quickly went to a duty judge to restrain the Police from deporting his client. It was later proved in court that the Police acted wrongly. If this had happened in Ghana, my friend would have been deported and even after it was proved that the Police acted wrongly, that would have been the end. Since, we do not have the perfect system, l refuse to be a Policeman.
As a country, we also talk about respect for human rights and the rule of law, but do the opposite. Why on earth would we allow the BNI to arrest people without any regard to the Constitution? It is like the organisation is on its own and no one has the power to check what they do. They now have the power to arrest people for taking pictures. It happened under former President John DramaniMahama and it has happened again.
It thus looks like the BNI, which used to be concerned with protecting the state against saboteurs who wanted to destroy the peace of the country, do not have such people to look for. They have instead, decided to do what they like without recourse to the Constitution of the land.
There are those who for political reason may not worry because most of these acts by the BNI do not affect them. However, it has been proved over the years that when you refuse to talk when you should, when the time comes and you are taken away, there would be no one left to talk for you. For this reason, l chose a different path because from what my Sunday School Teacher used to say, “everything you do in life must be above board.” Definitely, arresting people who take pictures, even if it was to expose government, was nothing that should be considered above board. For this, l have no regret that l did not join the Police.
It also hurts me that if l had joined the Police Service, l would have been up there and perhaps, would have been unable to bring about any change to the system. This is not because the people who work there are bad, rather it is the politicians who have over the years decided to make the Service dirty by filling it with their favourites.
…with Francis Kokutse