So far, so very good. That would have been my verdict if I was asked to give an assessment of the recent visible presence of the police at some vantage points in the city of Accra.
From what I have observed driving within the city, their presence is having a positive impact and putting some brakes on otherwise unfriendly, unacceptable, dangerous and sometimes unlawful road practices that some motorists engage in. After all, who wants to get on the wrong side of the police and at worse get arrested or their vehicle impounded?
I have tried to compare their mere presence to some personal actions one may tend to take sometimes to serve as deterrent to wrongdoers. Years ago, a colleague of mine at work was in two minds as to whether to put barbed wires on her wall to deter intruders. She found them cumbersome though. At the time, there was a spate of armed robbery attacks in her community. My advice to her was to invest in one. It was expensive and yes, too restrictive but I convinced her that it was going to be an investment worth its while for after all; even the police have secured barbed wires on the wall at the Police Headquarters even though it is manned 24 hours each day by armed policemen.
Just months later, my friend thanked me for the advice because while her immediate neighbours were attacked in succession by armed robbers, she and a couple other residents, one of whom had electric fencing, were spared the ordeal. This was possibly because the attackers may have found it difficult to scale their walls.
That is how I see the visible presence lately of police officers stationed in our communities. Though they may seem not to be doing much where we find them, their mere presence alone is enough to deter wrongdoing on our roads. The idea has actually introduced propriety at some of the intersections and roundabouts in the city of Accra.
So, why really, are the police out there? The answer may be simple. We have all at some point or the other, bemoaned the lawlessness that has crept into the Ghanaian. However, we have also been guilty of cheating on one motor traffic regulations or the other. We sometimes forget or keep postponing renewing our road worthy documents and driver’s license when due and only gets reminded when the police stop us. We speed when we should slow down and instead of giving way at the roundabout, we sometimes try to be smart and cheat on those who have the right of way.
Sometimes, we stop to buy a thing or two while in traffic thus delaying other motorists and putting lives in danger. We make the quick phone calls on our mobile phones or respond to one thinking that there is no one watching us irrespective of the laws banning the use of such devices when behind the steering wheel. Sometimes at busy intersections where the traffic lights do not function, we create unnecessary jams because everyone is in a hurry to go yet no one is ready to give way. The police visibility at intersections and some roundabouts has brought a lot of decorum and I can witness to that, at least in my area.
The areas around and into the Dansoman and Obetsebi-Lamptey roundabouts are such that some drivers, particularly those driving commercial vehicles, misbehave a great deal. Even though they know what to do when approaching the roundabouts, they are very impatient with very little care for others, refusing to give way. Sometimes, they drive with speed into the roundabout and anyone who attempts to insist on their right of way does so at their own risk. What does one see driving towards the Dansoman roundabout these days for example? There is complete orderliness because the police are visibly there and everyone is now approaching with care.
While this strategy seems to be working, the police might want to extend their presence to very quiet and isolated communities as well as overcrowded lorry stations and city centres where commercial activities are brisk and where burglars and pick pockets take advantage to strike in the day time.
One’s disappointment, however, is the fact that they seem to be turning a blind eye to the activities of commercial motorbike riders popularly known as Okada. They are having a field day as the police on duty at the various intersections watch them carry on with their perilous business. It is almost negating all the good work achieved so far.
As we applaud the effort of the police service for another dimension to instilling law and order with their men stationed at vantage points on our roads, their lukewarm attitude to something as illegal as Okada is negating their good efforts. I have searched for reasons and simply cannot understand why this is so, irrespective of the law in place that has banned the operations of Okada in this country. Why is it that right under their noses the police are watching on with no control? Who is mandated to enforce the law that stops the operation of Okada in Ghana?
One would want to believe that among other things, the police presence in town lately is to check and look out for irregularities on our roads. That being so, what explains the continued operation of Okada and why are the police looking out for all misdemeanours on our roads but are mere spectators when it comes to stopping Okada operators?
I doff my hat off for the idea of police visibility on our inner-city roads. We would plead with the authorities that are to encourage and equip them the more. But as for them watching on for Okada to have a field day, we would beg them to start doing something, not only to serve as a deterrent but to save the many from the terror of the few.