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Boosting police numerical strength -Sun Editorial

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In an attempt to boost the numerical strength of Nigeria Police and perhaps conform with the United Nation’s recommended 1:400 police-to-person ratio, the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, says 31,000 recruits have to be added yearly to the force for the next five years. By this projection, 155,000 new recruits would be added to the present number of about 375,000 men to bring the total to over 525,000 policemen.

The proposed recruitment is welcome if only to correct the long running imbalance of an under-policed nation, especially now that we are in a democratic dispensation where the police is expected to be more prominent in securing the citizenry. But if the exercise must serve its overall purpose, numerical strength alone would not be enough. We must check the background and qualifications of the people we recruit into the police.

In fact, it would be useful to start by interrogating what the nation is making of the about 370,000 men in the police force. Poorly trained, poorly paid and poorly loved, the average recruit is psychologically ill-equipped for the police job. A lot has been said of the dehumanising conditions of our police training colleges, but not much has changed. The recruit is reportedly extorted and made to even pay for his training kits and manuals which should have been supplied free of charge. His hostels and work environment are nothing to write home about. A local television’s expose on this pitiable condition of a foremost Police Training College in Lagos, not too long ago, is still fresh in our memory. The absence of a central and reliable data base for thorough background checks on intending recruits, is not a plus for our policing.

The perception that the police force is a dumping ground for the low in society is long ingrained in us and nothing is being done conscientiously, so far, to change the narrative. That is why we recommend that a minimum of tertiary or university education should be the entry point for new recruits into the force as it is the practice in countries where they take policing seriously. The education and exposure the average university graduate garners in the course of his education invests him with enough self-esteem that can significantly impact on the low general esteem of the average policeman today.

This, too, can be expected to significantly impact his attitude to work and self-confidence. In the United States, the average policeman can handle emergencies and conduct press conferences without promptings as the needs arise. It is the evidence of proper training, abiding self-confidence and the hallmark of a system that works. At home, our experience has mostly been the opposite, where policemen are reactive and perennially not forth-coming on their tasks.

To correct these lapses, the kind of people that get recruited into our police force should be properly screened. They must be persons of sound education, personal integrity and good conduct. Their antecedents must be checked for the right elements before they are recruited. To achieve this, the image of the Police Force as it is presently has to be changed. Their welfare and general conditions of service must be significantly enhanced to bring them at par with some of the best police in the world.

Their training and re-training regimens have to be on point and constantly evaluated in line with best practices. This will require huge funding which government alone cannot bear.  All stakeholders, including the public, must make significant contributions to the funding. No doubt, a nation gets the police force that it deserves. We believe that we deserve a better police than we now have, and must take concrete steps to change the image of our police force.


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