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Community Policing: We Must Not Distort the Meaning

By Adewale Adeoye

I understand the IG or his representatives are visiting the 36 states on Community Policing. Please our people attending the meetings should draw the attention of the police high command to the difference between the concept of Community Policing as defined in Federalism and the current Community Policing initiative of the Nigerian Police.

At this time of national social and violent upheavals, we must never get it wrong, if we do, to our peril. What I’m seeing is a complete distortion of the concept of Community Police either deliberately or by error, the same way Nigeria distorted Federalism. We must guide the police authority to do the right thing in accordance with best global practices.

We have seen great concepts that would propel prosperity in Nigeria distorted for parochial ends. One good example is State and Local Government creation, a major pillar of Federalism in a plural society.

The 36 states of the Federation were created by military fiat and this has continued to fuel communal violence and unending rage. The crisis in Plateau, Benue, Anambra and Benue, Ife Modakeke are not unconnected with state creation by decrees. Peoples and communities were not consulted before they were carved in the states they find themselves today. I once had interview with former Attorney General of the Federation, Chief Richard Akinjide, an exceptionally brilliant man of letters. He asked of my town. When I told him, he said “Die lo ku ka ge yin mon Kwara abi Kogi-Meaning “We nearly sliced your community into Kogi or Kwara.” Imagine, no one contacted my people. They sat down in cozy hotels and decided our future, the same way the 1885 Berlin Conference carved Africa into wishful thoughts of colonial crooks. The only state ever created by an Act of Parliament in Nigeria was the old Bendel State in 1963
Community policing is a sociology, driven by culture and heritage of a people. There are three key elements: People. Process. Policies. Community policing must begin with the people. The process must involve the people and they must own the process. The policies must be community inclusive. Community Policing is an organizational tactics of crime detection and prevention. It means the communities and the police will work together in creative ways to tackle crime. The community will also be involved in police career, reward and punishment.

In 2005, I was with a friend in Yale University, Connecticut, US, Lade Adunbi, now a Professor. While visiting I discovered a police man that needed promotion was going from house to house for endorsement. The policemen would prove he knew the residents and mention striking attributes of the resident, like the time of coming home and going out, the kind of his visitors, the favourite clothe, car plate number etc that would show the police man or woman knew and was actually protecting the resident. Here, the police think protecting you is a privilege and that you owe them gratification for you to be put under the radar. Police is seen as a weapon for official or state oppression. That is why when your property is stolen, you may be asked to provide money prior investigation. We have cases where people are kidnapped and police demanded for money. Afterall, have the police not paid ransom for kidnapped police officers? We are in a mess. Policies expected to change our slide to the cesspool, should not make our situation messier.

When Sir Robert Peel came with community policing concept, through the London Metropolitan Police, his Philosophy was “the police are the public and the public are the police.”

Community policing has to be defined by Funding, Authority and Control. What the IG is coming up with is Nigerian Police in Communities which is still tied to the apron of the IG in Abuja. Community police has to be controlled by three indigenous tiers: the State, the Local Government and the Communities. The Federal Government has no single business with Community Policing.The Nigerian Police has to SHRINK or SINK. Policing is local. That is why in the US and Britain, there is nothing like IG.People have unfounded fear that State police will be manipulated by State Governor, but are Federal Police not manipulated by State Governors and Federal Government? There is a limit a State Governor can manipulate a police force of his or her own people to do the wrong things against the Governors own brothers and sisters. Meanwhile, to avoid political control of State Police depends on the structure and form. State police Boards should include NBA, NUJ, Chief Justice and even Labour. This will help minimise negative influences.

Political parties and social formations should visit the entourage of the IG and let them know what the IG is doing is not Community Policing but creating the same Central Police in Nigerian Communities. They are fundamentally different. Each state should please go with own policy paper. We should not miss the opportunity. This is why the fundamental issue now is restructuring. When a house is falling, you don’t make it better by painting or changing the curtains. You address the foundation. Cosmetic changes like what the IG is doing will only reinforce illusion. A word is enough, BUT ONLY FOR THE WISE.

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