EXCLUSIVE: The challenges of combating crime through effective community policing

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    By Frank Oshanugor

    JULY 6, 2020
     
    The recent emplacement of structures by the police management to aid effective implementation of community policing regime as envisioned earlier in the year by the federal government following concerns over the upsurge in crimes and other social disorder, can be described as a step in the right direction; but only if the intentions and subsequent activities of the various committees are in sync with the national aspiration of truly fighting crime without minding whose ox is gored.
     

    A US cop relating with the community

    A cop gives his head gear to a child in community

    In recent days, police authorities have commenced the formal inauguration of committees being set up to assist in holistically implementing the Community Policing.  The committees expected to effectively drive the initiative which is largely citizens centred, include the State Community Policing Advisory Committee, State Community Policing Committee, Area Command Community Policing Advisory Committee, Local Government Advisory Committee and Divisional Community Policing Committee.
     
    Though, the concept of Community Policing is not new in the Nigeria Police parlance as some past Inspectors General of Police have had occasions to tinker with the idea, yet its nationwide effective implementation has not been achieved over time even though a state like Lagos experienced it during the two year reign of Imohimi Edgal as the State Commissioner of Police.  His community policing and partnership initiative which constantly brought the police and the civilian populace together helped much in fighting myriads of crime in Lagos.
     
    As a strategy, community policing is hinged on problem solving in a rather proactive manner as against the reactive law enforcement commonly known as traditional policing.  The systemic adoption of this strategy stems from the principle that in a democratic society like ours, the police are entrusted by their fellow citizens to serve and protect their fundamental rights to liberty, equality and justice as envisioned by the constitution of the country.
     
    It is ostensibly in the light of this, that the Nigerian Senate directed the Nigeria Police Force to overhaul its structure and fashion out some mechanism that would embrace an all-inclusive approach towards combating crime in the country. Local stakeholders at the grass root including traditional rulers, notable personalities and so on are to be involved with a view to addressing local security challenges. 
     
    For emphasis sake, Community Policing as conceptualized is community oriented policing aimed at bringing the police and citizens together to achieve a common goal of crime prevention and safer neighborhood.  It is therefore in the light of this, that police authorities in inaugurating the various Community Policing Committees have constantly reminded members to see themselves as workers in partnership with the police towards effectively and efficiently resolving crime, fear of crime, social/physical disorder and neighborhood decay.
     
    How can this be achieved?  This is the question this writer has taken to town with a view to seeking the opinion of security practitioners who are experts in their own right.  Some of them had served in the public security sector for years and are now in the private security domain.     As they attempt to make their positions known, three high points perceived to be challenges to community policing in Nigeria were pointed out.
     
    First, is that public perception of the Nigeria police is becoming worse than ever, given the endless spate of brutality, extra-judicial killings of innocent citizens and corrupt tendencies cutting across various ranks.  There is strong belief that attitude of some personnel has not changed from being negative and there is nothing to show that it would become positive anytime soon.
     
    Second, the philosophy of community policing emphasizes partnership, decentralization of authority and proactive-ness, but the structure of the Nigeria police is very central and the approach to crime fighting is still unrealistic.
     
    The third challenge is that the Nigeria Police Force is built on the traditional culture of force which is used to brutalize the same people that they are expected to protect.  The culture of brutality and use of force makes it difficult for the police to embrace community policing.                                
     
    Speaking on the issue, a retired Deputy Comptroller General (DCG) of Immigration Service, Dr. Brasca Ifeadi shared so much in the relevance of community policing as a tool in fighting crime if the needful is done.  According to him “community policing is hinged on correct and adequate intelligence-driven investigation process.  Therefore, any community policing effort must be intelligence driven without which there would be no success.”
     
    “The essence of involving the communities on such issues of policing our environment is because all crimes are committed not in the air but on ground and people live within these communities where such crimes are committed.  That is why it is the best way if we actually want the internal security dynamics of this country to become very useful and successful.”
     
    Stemming from this issue of intelligence-driven concept, the former immigration boss posited that for it to work, the police authorities must  borrow some cue from the concept of self-implosion common in the atomic bomb parlance which will first of all destroy the inside before destroying the outside.  In explaining this, Ifeadi said the self-implosion he is recommending for the police is not from the perspective of physical destructiveness but literarily from the perspective of goodliness in positioning of all structures of internal security within any of our communities.
     
    “So, what I mean by this; is that the police itself, should implode by ensuring that all personnel they want to deploy or employ for the community policing must first be re-organised, given the different mindset that corruption already exists within the system and such corrupt tendencies in our society must be killed.”
     
    He pointed out that government in recent time had tried so much by increasing salaries of police personnel far ahead of other para-military services.  “The government gave the police special incentives, so they must try to see if they can understand the truism that their integrity should be made apparent.  It should be paramount both as an individual and police force itself.  So when they do this and understand the essence of what they want to do within the communities, then we would have won the battle half way” he posited.
     
    For the community policing initiative to succeed, the former DCG would want the police authorities to go into the interiors of all the communities in Nigeria and do a total survey of the existing vigilante groups within the communities.  “Go to every community, you are likely to see a local vigilante group in place.  Look into their administrative set up of such groups.  It is not a very easy venture but would remain a very successful one if the right approach is taken,” he said.
     
    He advised the Inspector General of Police to make use of technocrats who know what community policing means to help in restructuring the system to make it more effective.  In line with his recommendation for ‘self-implosion’ for the police, Ifeadi who holds two Doctorate degrees in International Relations and Strategic Studies also recommended the same concept of ‘self-implosion; for the vigilante groups which would constitute the community policing elements. 
     
    Speaking further; he said “as a system, if you do not change the internal dynamics, you cannot be exemplary to others.  That is why, for example; we expect a Chief Imam in a mosque or Pastor in a church to change his own ways of life for good before sermonizing to the congregation to change.”
     
    On the part of police authorities, the former immigration chieftain would want a more concerted effort in dealing with the poverty mentality that has created the room for corrupt tendencies within the ranks.  He advised them to take the issue of community policing seriously as a community service “since the success of it will have a more positive effect on the efforts of government in ensuring that our national internal dynamics are peaceful” he emphasized.
     
    Speaking in the same vein, the Managing Director of Harvard International Security Company, Mr. Subway Osazuwa who has been in private security services for about thirty years, said community policing is everyone’s business and “everybody has to embrace it, because the reality is that government security agencies alone are overwhelmed with crime and insecurity in Nigeria.”

    “Crime prevention has to be in the hands of people in the neighbourhood.  They know the terrain and when there are strange happenings, they are the first to know.  They should be a legal template for them to arrest the situation.”
     
    Like Ifeadi, the Harvard Security boss would want a more proper and efficient approach in making it work. In his advice, “community policing should have a well organized structure so that the purpose is not abused.”
     
    Another private security practitioner and former personnel of the Nigerian Army, Dr. Roy Okhidievbie commenting on the community policing initiative expressed some support for the current reformation drive in the Nigeria Police Force.  However, he regretted the fact that procrastination has remained the bane of any good reformatory process within the system which ultimately causes distraction from the original objective. 
     
    In other to make the community policing initiative to work,  Okhidievbie who is currently the Managing Director of AugustEye Security Company would want the authorities to step up effort in establishing training institutes for personnel to get the right education which must be useful in content particularly in this era of advancement in technology.
     
    The former soldier would also want police personnel to be adequately motivated at all times, so that the Force as an institution could always attract the right caliber of persons with good education.
     
    A former Assistant Director with the Department of State Service (DSS), Mr. Dennis Amachree who is now a security consultant is not enthused by the community policing efforts as currently being driven by the police management.  In his words, “the Inspector General of Police is trying to bring policing to the grassroots, through community policing, but I see it as ineffective.  Many trials had been made with community policing which have not achieved the desired result.   Rather than community policing, the National Assembly should do the needful by amending the Police Act and the Constitution to allow for State Police and Local Government Sheriffs.”
     
    According to him, “policing is more effective at the local area where crimes are committed.  A much closer relationship between the police and the people at the grassroots will bring down the rate of crime and enhance security of the Nigerian citizenry,” he argued.
     
    Some other security practitioners who are experts in their own rights have spoken in line with Amachree’s position.  Speaking on the basis of anonymity, they argued that policy inconsistency within the Nigeria police system can never allow the community policing to be effective.  This, they explained is hinged on the personal agenda of any Inspector General of Police who wants to see himself outshining his predecessors in office, thereby discontinuing with some already existing policies once they are appointed.
     
    The security practitioners noted that the concept of community policing is not so new as it was initiated over ten years ago, but the implementation has become rather politicized according to them.  Though, they shared some good feelings with the efforts of the incumbent Inspector General of Police;  Mohammed Adamu with implementing the community policing directive of the National Assembly by inaugurating committees at different levels to implement the scheme, yet they are not convinced that the committees would come out with any meaningful achievements.
     
    Their reason is that the next Inspector General of Police after Adamu may have served out his tenure, might not have the same penchant to keep the committees functional in line with the current desire to have effective community policing regime in place.
     
    More so, they argue that since many members of the committees are people selected from the grassroots without adequate and honest background checks in line with Dr. Brasca Ifeadi’s ‘self-implosion’ concept, there is likelihood of introducing politics into it.  Party affiliation may become the yardstick for serving in the committees and not necessarily one’s ability and patriotism.
     
    With this divergence in opinion of security practitioners, the Inspector General of Police and his team would therefore need a more robust approach by trying to accommodate the relevant views expressed and fashioning out a workable strategy particularly at this level when recruitment of potential special constables who would serve in the scheme is yet to commence.
     
    RAZOR NEWS EXXLUSIVE 2020.

    ALL RIGHTS RESERVED .

    FEEDBACK FROM READERS:

    Good morning my good brother Sunday.This is a good exposition on the much touted community Policing subject which is not by any means new to the NPF but introduced in 2002 by IGP Tafa Balogun with pilot projects in Ogun and Enugu States.It is good the incumbent IGP is waking up a sleeping giant.It is a project that may succeed provided the practitioners are committed to its age long ideals and the average Policeman develops appropriate attitudinal change such that every Policeman becomes the Police PRO through friendly disposition to the public. We are experimenting with the ideals of community Policing like representation, participation, accountability and high visibility Policing at the Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Agency and God willing, it’s working out. Thanks for sending this write up which will no doubt enrich the literature on the important subject.DIG Israel Ajao,rtd OON,NPM, mni Chairman Lagos Neighbourhood Safety Agency

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