#Article (Archive)

Measuring Police Professionalism in The Gambia

Jul 9, 2008, 5:53 AM

We wish to seize the opportunity to say a special welcome to the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Essa Badjie, in his new role. The whole world knows that the post is quite heavy with tremendous responsibilities and little praise. Equally it is only those who have been well tested in their knowledge of police affairs that are called upon to serve at this level. We want to believe that IGP Badjie equals the post given his illustrious background as Officer Commanding the Western Region and the difficult position of Crime Management Co-ordinator. We have confidence that he will do as well as his brilliant predecessor or even go further.

Having said this, it is not impertinent to point out some areas of concern with the hope that the police force, under the leadership of IGP Badjie, will endeavour to address them once and for all.

The first is the area of detention of suspected persons. True, the police have been given powers to invite individuals for questioning before there is sufficient grounds to effect an arrest. However the big cause of public complaint and criticism is the inordinately long period of detention, which usually goes beyond the legal limit. No one should be detained for more than 72 hours without being released or charged or brought before a court of law. We should all ensure that this constitutional right of the individual is always upheld, protected with sanctity and never infringed with impunity.

In particular there should be close adherence to the court rules governing police questioning. Individuals have the right to be treated well and fairly and not subjected to undue harassment, pressure or suffering. Certainly no torture should take place. The detainee should be informed of their right to see counsel and allowed to do so if they so request.

Furthermore, people have complained about the treatment meted out to them by police personnel on traffic duty. It is alleged that some police officers treat civilians with the minimum of respect. Civilians are shouted at and given orders when in fact proper procedure requires courtesy at all times to civilians.

The police should be shining examples of politeness and courtesy, which civilians can emulate, as obtains in other countries.

The police leadership should look seriously into this matter as it is sometimes a source of embarrassment to innocent respectable citizens and the cause of occasional disgraceful brawls between 'police officers' and civilians, particularly commercial drivers.

Also some stretches of road are seriously over policed. Between Brusubi roundabout and Tujering there are at least five checkpoints.

Some of the stops are only a few hundred metres apart and asking the same obvious questions over and over again to the same drivers.

This makes one wonder about the purpose and efficiency of this multiplicity of police stops. It should be considered that drivers at most times are subjected to monotonous fruitless procedures and precious time is wasted as well as increasingly expensive fuel.

The police leadership is urged to look into this area of operation with a view to evolving new methods and improving efficiency.

On the other hand community policing has proved a very positive and rewarding initiative. It should be promoted and further strengthened to further foster community- police relations and mutual support.

The leadership should organise frequent training and workshops for police personnel to address the issues raised earlier and promote professionalism and excellence in the force. While it is commendable that a police complaints unit has been established, it is hoped that there will soon be no need for such a unit. This can be achieved by developing high professional standards in the first place. We would like to appeal to the government to improve upon the salaries of policemen and officers especially in consideration of the very important duties they carry out and the fact that they are expected to carry out these duties in service of the nation with a high degree of honesty and professionalism. We wish to give the police leadership every support and encouragement in their tenure and in the professional discharge of their duties.

"Policemen are numbered in case they get lost."

Spike Milligan