The sudden and unfortunate death of Const. Emmanuel Lamptey at Afienya Snap Checkpoint within the week reminds me of how I have personally come close to death on several occasions on the road as an MTTD personnel and also a police officer who has performed barrier duties before. The risk associated with these duties are unquantifiable and undetermined but interestingly those are the duties most police officers with the exception of few, love to perform.
Some police officers can be on the road for 365 days a year, or 366 days in a leap year, and 24/7 without assessing the risks and health implications involved by standing on the road in both rainy and sunny weathers all year long inhaling fumes of carbon mono oxide from exhaust pipes of vehicles. Carbon mono oxide emissions from vehicles on our roads is recently identified as a major cause of death for police officers, particularly those who have worked with the MTTD or performed barrier duties for long. Such police officers eventually end up battling lung related diseases before dying. So, under the normal circumstances, police officers performing barrier duties or working with the MTTD deserve some kind of allowances based on the risks and health implications involved.
I hear the constable is barely 2 years in the police service and has died in that gorry manner. My condolences to the bereaved family particularly the wife whom we are told is some months pregnant after tying the knots some 6 months ago. These are very difficult times and moments for such a young woman with her unborn baby and our thoughts and prayers are with her in these trying moments. It is not easy but we pray that time consoles her as the sun rises and set.
Human life is one of the non-renewable and irreplaceable capital resources in this life so it ought to be guarded and protected with maximum security but unfortunately the case is the reverse in the police where the organisation does not take charge in protecting and ensuring the safety of its personnel. Police officers die haphazardly in Ghana with nothing being done about it so the death of Const. Emmanuel Lamptey is therefore no news at all as nothing pragmatic will be done to ensure that these kinds of deaths do not happen again. I am not sure the barrier has been closed because of the death of Const. Emmanuel Lamptey. Another person might have replaced him already as it is always said that because of one's death, it does not mean we should stop policing. Policing continues unabated.
It is really scary and very dangerous on our roads considering how some drivers are very reckless and inconsiderate. Many at times speeding vehicles particularly drivers who are not familiar with the road yet would not drive with cautions would come and knock our barriers away. Many at times Police officers performing barrier duties or motor checks would have to run helter-skelter for their lives because of some "lunatic" sitting at the back of the steering wheel.
I remember one time at Have barrier in the Volta Region when a vehicle applied brakes for more than 50metres and still knocked down our barrier. That night, about 6 of us at the barrier sustained serious bruises as all of us were running for our dear lives. Till date I still cannot understand how I managed to jump to safety considering how others sustained serious bruises. I equally sustained a dislocation in the left foot for not landing properly on it.
That night I imagined the whole scene whilst nursing my pains and occasionally laughed out loudly to the irritations of my colleagues who were also nursing their bruises with some first aid. Interestingly the driver when realised that he had knocked a police barrier and considering how the police have run for their dear lives amid shouts, he again sped off to wherever he was going. He did not stop and we also did not have a vehicle at our disposal to chase him. What made me to even laugh harder is how the driver sped off when he realised what he has done.
I laughed uncontrollably since I did not die and still have the gift of life to make ammends and atone for my sins. For the driver, I can imagine and understand why he ran. You have knocked Ghana Police barrier and you still want to stand there? He would have definitely received some heavy "Azumah Nelson punches", before being detained probably for long hours and be taken to court or settle the police by paying their bills and repairing their barrier. He could not have afforded the bail conditions so the only thing he felt he could do was to run. Till date we have not seen him. In fact, we did not even bother ourselves to look for him. We paid our own medical bills and repaired our own barrier.
I returned from that barrier duties jumping on one leg and the following day I made them to match me before my district commander and told him that I am not interested in going on barrier duties again considering the risk associated with it. He asked me to justify why I would not perform barrier duties considering the fact that it is a police duty and I cannot choose which one to perform or not to perform. I had imagined how my life almost slipped off my hands that night and felt that a lot needs to be done to ensure the security and the safety of police officers at barriers before I could risk my life again for such duties.
For the rest of my days as a police officer at Peki, I never stepped my foot at any of the barriers again till I left. Some of us have raised loud concerns and argued dispassionately as to whether the barrier modus is still relevant in these contemporary times of policing as far as crime combat is concerned. Are barriers serving their purposes or they have become death traps for young police officers just like it happened to Const. Emmanuel Lamptey at Afienya? A lot will go in that manner with no holistic approach from the police administration to assess the risk levels associated with barrier duties.
The police officer just like all other beings, has only one life and so he ought to guard his life jealously whilst discharging his duties, particularly on the road. The police officer is not a superhero in computer games where he has additional lives based on how the game is programmed. His life is just one, and once it is squeezed out of him through an accident on the road or through other violent means in the course of performing his duties, that is it. His stay on earth has ended.
We ought to know that it is very perilous working on roads in Ghana where most drivers are reckless and have very little respect for human lives. We ought to very careful when discharging our duties on the road particularly when performing barrier duties. Every passing vehicle stands the chance of killing us but unfortunately many police officers behave on the road as if they have additional lives to spare. They do not take guard of their lives and some of them would want to jump in the middle of the road to stop a speeding vehicle for whatever reasons I do not know.
This is a real life situation and so the police officer must go extra mile to protect his life first, before protecting lives and properties of others who eventually may convict his dead body on the charges of bribery and extortions particularly if he is performing barrier duties like the case of Const. Emmanuel Lamptey may be. The first impression every Ghanaian gets when they see a police officer on barrier duties is that, the police officer is there to extort monies from the travelling public. They do not assess the effects of the presence of the police officers on the road once they not encountered problems on the road. The only time they appreciate the need of police officers on the road is when they are under robbery attacks or involved in accidents.
The police officer is never a Superman or Batman especially in this part of our world where the police officer is not adequately trained and retrained. Some police officers have never been to any form of refresher course since they passed out in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s depending on the year that they passed out. They are still applying "Captain Glover's" standards of training and policing when the world has evolved billions of years in terms of information and technology. More speeding cars operating on complex auto mechanisms have come and the police officer must be up to date in order to know how to handle dangerous situations when such cars are approaching barriers with tough speeds.
Mr. Paul Tawiah Quaye attempted organising regular training and retraining for police officers but unfortunately he had to leave the office after some people felt that he has to go for them to also come and enjoy what is in the IGP's office so left without any contract. Sadly, those who pressurised Mr. Paul Tawiah Quaye to leave the office rather came for contracts when they were due to go home. He is probably the only IGP in recent years years who seemed to have had some solid policies for the police service based on his 5 years strategic plan which was thrown into the dustbin immediately he left the office.
To perform a barrier duties or motor checks is one of the most dangerous duties a police officer can be detailed for. Every passing moment, you see death as cars approaches your barrier or duty points and go away. Some of these vehicles have bad breaking systems and in poor maintenance conditions so the police officer must always bear in mind that he has just one life and it is his responsibility to safeguard and protect his own life.
Remember that your life is only one when you are on the road because some of the the drivers on our roads have sight problems. They may kill you before realising it.
Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III
Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III
The author has authored 14 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author's column: AhantaApemenyimhenebaKwofieIII
Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Ahanta Apemenyimheneba Kwofie III and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."