By Isaac Asabor
Aristotle was an ancient Greek philosopher and scientist who is today considered to be one of the greatest thinkers in psychology and ethics. One of his famous quotes is “Friendship is essentially a partnership.” With the recent confrontation that played out between the police and the people amidst the EndSARS protest, there is no mistaken the fact to say that he has been turning in his grave over the attack on the Police that lasted for days. Against the foregoing viewpoint, it is not an exaggeration to say that the Police has witnessed a severe escalation of violence and mistrust from the communities that it is paradoxically charged to protect.
As a Public Relations professional cum Journalist, no rally cry has piqued my curiosity more than that of the Nigeria Police which says, “Police is your friend.” Maybe it is because of its inherent contradiction that suggests that the police is saying, “I do the opposite of what I say.” The foregoing line of thinking cannot be farfetched as the Can of worms that was literarily opened by the people, and which triggered and fueled the #EndSARS protests across the country does not fit the rhetorical claim of officials of the Nigeria Police that they are friends of the people. Often, the experiences which most Nigerians had at the hands of Policemen makes one to wonder why they even bother to boost their collective reputation with the mantra.
It is disastrous that while policemen in other parts of the world are responding to rapid social change and emerging problems by rethinking their basic strategies, responding to problems such as crime, drugs, fear, and urban decay, the Nigeria Police appears to be years away from such manner of policing. In some other parts of the world, such as in countries that can be found in Europe, America and Asia, the police have begun to experiment with more humane approaches in their tasks.
Among the most prominent new approaches by the police in such countries is the concept of community policing. Viewed from one perspective, it is not a new concept; the principles can be traced back to some of policing’s oldest traditions. More recently, some of the important principles of community policing have been reflected in particular programs initiated in a variety of places within police departments.
However, beyond the agitations for the reformation of the Nigeria Police which in the last few weeks became the basis for the clarion calls been made by the people as a result of the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, there is no denying the fact that the reality of a frozen relationship between the police and the people is by each passing day becoming obvious coupled with a milieu of mutual distrust is equally becoming noticeable more than ever before.
With what transpired between the populace and the police in the aftermath of the #EndSARS protest, the fact that the Police has lost the trust and confidence reposed in it by the people cannot no longer be doubted. At this juncture, it is not hyperbolical to say that the ongoing Post #EndSARS period is a difficult time for policing in Nigeria. The reason for the foregoing view cannot be farfetched as the police are beginning to be standoffish to crime protection. As been experienced in the recent time, media reports indicate that the police are turning back complainants from police stations. The situation has now deteriorated to the level where police departments are now faced with a new challenge of community distrust. Media reports have equally shown that when individuals do not trust the police and do not believe that they share a common set of values with the police, they feel less obliged to follow the law, to cooperate in criminal investigations, and more generally to ensure neighborhood safety.
To buttress the foregoing views, a news report in the Daily Independent newspaper by Tomi Falade and Joseph Undu on October 24, 2020, paints a graphic picture of the grim situation thus: . “On Tuesday, October 20, a group of anti-SARS protesters nabbed a couple of burglars terrorizing the Benin-Ugbowo Lagos Road community. The protesters made a citizen’s arrest after the robbers took advantage of the dawn to dusk curfew in Edo State and broke into a block of shops. Surprisingly, the shop owners revealed that efforts to hand the suspects over to the police proved abortive as the policemen on duty at the Estate Police Station informed them that they could not arrest anyone because they had not been authorized to make arrests, even referencing their empty cells where previous detainees had been released. The citizens were told to take their culprits to the Force Headquarters if they truly wanted them arrested”.
It is germane to say that since the #EndSARS protest ended that there are indications that if police officers are not reoriented to their duties once again that they may remain nonchalant, and disinterested to their civic responsibilities. The report warned that if the situation is not addressed that it will remain the story for the next few weeks or months in many states if care is not taken.
Ostensibly to address the situation, the Inspector-General of Police (IGP), M.A Adamu, , has ordered the immediate mobilization of all police operational assets and resources to bring an end to the wanton violence, killings, looting and destruction of public and private property, and reclaim the public space from criminal elements masquerading as protesters in some parts of the country.
In addition, the IGP has charged all Commissioners of Police (CPs), Heads of Police Formations in the various states to mobilize their men and work in unison with the Command CPs in the areas where they are domiciled, to recover the public space and ensure peace and safety in the affected areas.
In as much as the efforts of the IGP is no doubt laudable, efforts should equally be made to ensure that the public confidence and trust in the police is restored. Public Relations Unit of the police should embark on nationwide sensitization of communities on the importance of the police in the society. These objectives can be achieved by carrying out Town Hall meetings with community leaders, royal fathers and youth leaders for measurable results to be achieved.
Isaac Asabor is a Public Affairs Analyst.