By Oluwatomi Ajayi*
- The fact is that there are widespread allegations of misconduct against the Nigeria Police. Therefore, many people do not feel confident that the Police will ever represent the interest of the public, especially where the duty of Police is concerned.
- Public Faith in Policing requires building Police accountability and responsibility in the first place, while equally building public trust in the Police along the process. As required by Law, Police is to maintain law and order and follow due process during arrests, search and seizure, investigation and prosecution. They must not arrest on flimsy basis. By doing all these, they are maintaining the public’s faith in the Police system.
A few indicators that will enhance this public faith are:
- Police conduct during investigation must not leave a suspect vulnerable.
- If there are opportunities for Police to prevent crisis or crime, and minimize risks, they should be on the alert and rise up to the challenge. To this end, Divisional Police Officers must ensure the patrol vehicles are working. If the vehicles are in bad condition, the appropriate authority concerned should be notified.
- Police should apologise to suspects or members of the public if there are mistakes.
- There should be no preferential treatment for influential suspects. No crime must be brushed under the carpet.
- Any investigation done underway should be handled professionally in order to establish the cause of the crime.
- Police officers should be polite to members of the public. There should be no vulgar language, no forced confession or fabrication of evidence against any suspect. The general observation is that junior officers at most police stations can sometimes be over-bearing and overzealous which makes them highly susceptible to waiving aside the principles of human rights. Such officers should be cautioned. Efforts must be made to take strong actions against any erring police officer, if found wanting.
- Having regular open meetings with people whose businesses have the tendency to harbor criminals. For example, hotel proprietors and night club owners fall into this category. The minutes of such meetings should be documented for feedback purposes.
- Police should strive towards working for and enjoying community support by positively engaging with traditional rulers, local groups or partnerships in their domain and listening to their grievances.
- During mediation between complainant and suspect, an officer should exhaust other remedies like verbal warnings and persuasion especially where it has to do with simple offences. It is not about intimidating or detaining suspects all the time.
- Corruption defeats the objectives of public faith in policing. Therefore, this canker-worm must be stamped out.
- Actually, the project of having public faith in policing originated in UK, and it is aimed at developing and sustaining ongoing relationship between community concerns and policing issues. In Nigeria, it has a similar bearing with the Community Policing Strategy that is being postulated by the Police in Lagos that it is important for everyone to know the neighbours. This should be accompanied with provision of security information to communities.
- Increased public confidence and restored trust. In turn, there is also an improved relation with victims of crime and members of the public. People would not bypass the Police.
- Reduction in crime or re-offending as citizens would find it easy to volunteer information to the Police. It would help the Police to adequately address the root causes of crime and eventually assist in getting the crime figures down.
- When Police follow its code of ethics/right training, standards will not be compromised.
- Enhanced Peace and security in the community.
For the public to have faith in the Police, Nigeria needs a disciplined Police that is trained in accordance with best practices associated with technology. We desire a Police that responds to complaints more efficiently and professionally. We crave for a honest Police that has a cordial relationship with the public. Their positive attitude will surely go a long way in helping to rebuild Nigerians’ trust in Policing. It is respectfully submitted that police officers should continue to create a cooperating image for their organization, so that when they make this progress in creating a good image, they also must endeavor to sustain the image. It is for the benefit of us all.
*Oluwatomi Ajayi heads the Research Committee of the African Women Lawyers Association (AWLA) Nigeria