Two separate identification parades for suspected criminals in the Ashanti Regional capital Kumasi on Wednesday, has brought to the fore the need for the Ghana Police Service to revise the manner in which such parades are staged.
The first parade was at the Suame Police command where six suspected robbers alleged to have terrorized travelers on the Kumasi-Sunyani Highway were lined up to be identified by over 50 victims of their operations. Ultimate Radio’s Julius Caesar Anadem who witnessed the parade says only one person was present, but could not even identify his attacker after exposing himself to them with no protection.
The Suame Police Commander, Superintendent Wisdom Lavoe was unhappy with the poor turnout to such parades. Sharing his grief with Julius Caesar Anadem, he lamented, “We have realized that most people feel victimized and don’t want to come forward for someone to point them out tomorrow to be attacked. They are afraid to come out. But they shouldn’t fear to come else it will not help our work”.
A similar identification parade also took place later in the day at the Asokwa Police Command where five robbery suspects were paraded for ransacking shops at Asafo Market. The parade which was done in the open saw many onlookers taking photos of the suspects and their victims, a practice which is not accepted in standard policing.
A robbery victim identifying her suspect at the Asokwa Police command
Asokwa Police Commander Superintendent Samuel Andane-Ameyaw at a point had to prevail on the on-looking public to stop taking photos and videos. But that was an excise in futility because the crowd was in their hundreds.
The Asokwa Police Commander, Superintendent Samuel Andane-Ameyaw, who spoke to Ultimate Radio’s Nana Oye Diabene, suggested the parade done by the Ghana Police was the normal practice globally and that no modifications could be effected to make the parade any discrete from unhealthy public intrusion.
“If we say we will allow that only people who are coming for the identification to view the suspects, it will go against the public. That is the procedure globally, everywhere identifications are not done in a canopy. It is done in public like this so that it will not be like it is the police that have colluded with the people. It is a procedure that has been accepted by the law of Ghana,” he claimed.
But Security Expert and Executive Director of the West African Network for Peace Building, Emmanuel Bombande, says the unimpressive turnout of crime victims and the trouble the police is now going through in controlling on lookers is to be blamed on the outmoded manner by which Ghana still goes about criminal identification parades.
He told Ultimate Radio’s Ebenezer Afanyi Dadzie the procedure used by the Ghana Police Service is completely against standard policing. He condemned the procedure which he said exposed the already traumatized victims to further security threats.
Challenging the system, he noted that, “the standard mechanism under every circumstance must be that the people must identify the perpetrators of the crime in a manner in which the perpetrators are neither able to see the victims nor identify them so that even if the perpetrators are aware they are being identified, they don’t know who actually is identifying them. He stressed, “It is that mechanism that safeguards and protects the victims and that protection is not just physical it is also psychological.”
Shedding more light on the accepted practice globally, Mr. Bombande indicated that any person that had been a victim to violent crime is vulnerable and always has the fear and anxiety of what could even happen next and that providing for the security of such persons against the suspected criminals was paramount to the exercise for the identification of the criminals.
He said any system that fell short of this, rather exposed victims to both psychological and physical vulnerabilities which could even create more problems that people now would want to avoid.
He stated further that it was “completely below standard operating procedure” for the identification parades to be held openly for members of the public to be taking photos as was witnessed in Kumasi. He emphasized that “the criminals should only to be known and identified by victims”.
Mr. Bombande cautioned that such procedures had severe security threats as it could disrupt police investigations and further incense supporter groups of the exhibited criminals to go on a rampage to avenge the arrest of the criminal.
“By virtue of the fact that the criminal in custody has been so publicly made known, that criminal can even end up mobilizing the same type of gangs who support him, to continue to wage more violent acts against ordinary civilians. It is therefore important that as part of the protection of victims, the procedure is taken seriously to ensure that at the end of the day, due process is followed for prosecutions to be well done and the public assured of their safety.”
He is advocating that going forward; government has to recognize that the fight against crime hinges on public confidence in the criminal prosecution process which has to be resourced with all it needs to run effectively.
He proposed that the service be dedicated resources for constructing special rooms with the kind of screens which allows people to see and identify criminals without the criminals noticing the identifying victims.