I am delighted to be here this afternoon in this year’s WASSA celebration – my first as President of the Republic. After a year of enforcing the rule of law, protecting lives and properties and ensuring the maintenance of peace in all parts of the country, I dare say that taking a day-off to unwind and “chill’ is well-deserved. This annual tradition also affords you, the leadership and personnel of the Police Service, the opportunity to reflect on your performance in the past year, and how best that performance can be improved upon in the years ahead.
I see that the immediate past Inspector General of Police, Mr. John Kudalor, is here with us this afternoon, as well as some of his predecessors, like Peter Nanfuri, now a big traditional ruler, and C.O. Lamptey. The Police Service is where it is today as a result of the solid job you and the other senior retired officers did during your respective tenures of office. ‘Ayekoo’. I know that Mother Ghana will continue to draw on your expertise in other fields of our national life. To the acting Inspector General of Police, Mr. David Asante Appeatu, I wish you the very best as you take on the mandate of shaping the Police Service into the modern, professional police the Ghanaian people want. I am expecting that next week when the Council of State is inaugurated, the acting part of your life will go, as it will also for the other leaders of our security forces.
To you, the thousands of men and women of the Ghana Police Service, I commend you sincerely for ensuring a generally peaceful conduct of the 2016 election, and doing so in a professional manner. That is what the nation expects of you and you acquitted yourselves creditably. The nation is grateful, too, for the speed with which you have brought the troubling developments in Bimbilla under some control. I want to thank you also for the credit you bring to our nation by the professional and impressive manner you discharge your peacekeeping duties.
Ladies and gentlemen, the most important thing for a nation is the peace and safety of its people, and its territorial integrity. It is when these are guaranteed that citizens can go about their lives in security, and hope to improve upon the quality of their circumstances. We all sleep, feeling safe, because you, our police men and women, work to keep our nation and our streets safe. Today, I pay tribute to you. You deserve our respect and support, and I look forward to working with you over the course of my administration to ensure law and order in our country.
In a democracy, the organizations that are generally referred to as constituting the security services, such as the police, are expected to be politically neutral in performing their duties. The law states so and normal practice gives them this neutral outlook. It is in everybody’s interest that the Police Service retains the neutrality and professionalism guaranteed under the Constitution. Governments have term limits, and in a multi-party democracy, parties win and lose power. It is good for the health of the nation that this is so, and this is why the Police Service should not tie their well-being or otherwise to the fortunes of the ruling party of the day. As President, and together with the leadership of the Police Service, we will ensure that you are left to focus on your core mandate and not to be an appendage of my government. I envisage a Police Service that goes about its duty of protecting ordinary citizens confident that there will be no interference from the powers that be.
Article 200 (3) of the Constitution states that “the Police service shall be equipped and maintained to perform its traditional role of maintaining law and order”. The ultimate goal of this provision is to ensure explicitly that the ordinary citizen feels safe and can go about his or her everyday business, free from the fear of crime. Maintaining the Police Service to perform its traditional role means that we have to boost the numbers of the Police Service, as we have a need for more police officers, than we currently have, manning our streets. Throughout the world, an adequate police force is seen as central to the maintenance of law and order and the protection of populations. Ghana is not an exception. According to the United Nations, the Police Public Ratio (PPR) for any country should be 1:500. Currently, we are well below that number, and as I stated in Tuesday’s message on the state of the nation to Parliament, my government will continue recruitment into the Police Service, with the aim of meeting the U.N ratio. We will also ensure gender equity in this regard. We must get a more professional police service, where recruitment and training practices are of acceptable international standards.
It is often said that the public is the police and the police is the public. Currently, the Police Service, unfortunately, suffers lower public image than it should have. We seem to be back to the old days when a call to the police station is answered with “sorry, we have no car”, many calls are now answered with: “sorry we have no fuel”! We will go back to the good old days of policing where people felt that all the efforts of the police were geared towards making their lives more comfortable.
Nowadays, the challenges you face at work are more sophisticated in nature. Innovative drug trafficking, cybercrime, intelligent fraud and money laundering are some of the crimes that you have to fight. Departments, such as the Criminal Investigations Department, will in the coming year benefit from the use of modern tools of policing to facilitate their work. A better equipped CID will ensure investigations into crimes are solved, which would go a long way to building confidence and trust in the Police Service.
I urge all of you to continue to be professional in all your operations, so as to gain and maintain the trust of the people you have sworn to serve and protect. The recent incident, at the Kumasi Technical Institute (KTI), shows that retraining and capacity building of your men and women in handling issues such as this is of the utmost necessity. On our roads, I am informed that within the course of last week, there were a total of nine (9) road accidents, resulting in the loss of 12 lives with 78 people suffering various degrees of injuries. The strict enforcement of our laws on the road will save many more lives.
My government is determined to give whatever support is required to ensure that we have the service that the people of Ghana deserve. And to that end, we have plans, as set out in our manifesto, to improve your accommodation needs, and build two new police hospitals at Sunyani and Bolgatanga to serve your health needs. We also intend to build two new police training schools, all this with the view to improving the quality of our police service and the welfare of police personnel.
Above all, I am determined to do something about the state of our economy. Our nation is a wealthy one, and my government and I are resolute that we will put measures in place that will make the wealth apparent in the lives of our people. That is how, by the grace of God, I will justify the great faith the overwhelming majority of Ghanaians have reposed in my party, the New Patriotic Party (NPP), and myself by the historic verdict of 7th December, last year.
I would not want to take much of your time, as I see that many of you, like me, are eager to hit the dancing floor and make merry. Bur let me leave you with the words of Holy Scripture in Psalms 82:3-4 which says “Defend the poor and fatherless: do justice to the afflicted and needy.”
Thank you, God bless you, God bless our homeland Ghana and make her great and strong.