It has been widely reported more than 2.4 million Ghanaians, representing about 10 per cent of the population, are suffering from mental illness and this must scare all of us.
It is also said that almost all of us Ghanaians suffer from one form of mental disorder or another and this calls for our government through the health authorities must do something about this and really quick.
Scary right? You haven’t seen anything yet…
If ten percent of the entire Ghanaian population constituting 2.4 million people are mad, have we as a nation ever thought about how many people in the Ghana Police Service are “mad” going by the above analogy?
Anyway! The population of the Ghana police service is in the twenty six thousand range and I will leave you to do your own computations because I am mathsphobic from birth.
Recently, it was reported that a police officer in Tema, a trained enforcer of the law had broken the law beyond imaginable and reasonable comprehension by committing multiple murders and also doing the ultimate to himself – by committing suicide with an official weapon he booked at his unit supposedly for duty.
The shock and the attendant ripple across the nation was largely exhibited through social media. The frustration of the people was so glaring that they couldn’t hide it but express it so harshly and called on the administration to put serious measures in place to prevent a recurrence of such barbaric act.
This frustration by a section of the Ghanaian population was to be expected because obviously a policeman was involved.
Today, I will like us to delve a little more into the dangers that may await all of us if we don’t treat our police service well and also accord them the needed support as a nation.
Suicide is usually defined as the intentional taking of one’s own life OR to kill yourself intentionally.
I am sure nobody ever expected a police officer to kill his own children, mother in law and then, kill himself. But it happened. It happened live in the Tema Region of the Ghana police service.
Our criminal code says that “whoever commits suicide shall be guilty of misdemeanor” the police officer has committed suicide and this is his punishment(misdemeanor)
He didn’t only commit suicide, he committed multiple murders and the same criminal code says that “whoever commits murder shall be liable to suffer death”. Here again, the officer has taken his punishment already.
Have we asked ourselves what at all in the world will push a policeman in his prime age like that Tema officer to do all of this to himself and family in just one day?
Could he have been mad? Could he possibly have been part of the 2.4 million Ghanaians who are said to be mad? Does he have cohorts like him with the same “mad status ” still serving in the police service who are likely to toe his line?
Please keep your answers to yourself.
On this faithful day, a police officer who should have known better, walked to his station, booked for an official weapon, went to his house and committed multiple murders and also committed suicide.
Who at all in his right frame of mind will kill his children? But yet a police officer did it.
This is what happens when mentally deranged individuals of the service are given complete access to weapons. Here I must say that many such mentally deranged persons are still abound in the service and many police officers know them but don’t talk about them.
It is almost like a forbidden subject to talk about sickness or mental issues of other personnel in the service.
When you give weapons to mad people, they will use it whenever they think they have to use it and especially if they think is the only way left for them to “solve” their problems.
In fact, on the 23rd of July at exactly 12:45 pm, I posted on my facebook wall that “A world without gun violence is possible only if sane people are licensed and allowed to use weapons. Weapons are too dangerous to be left in the hands of insane people ”
By the action of the Tema police officer, can we classify him as a sane or insane officer?
So you see, the state by default, purchased a weapon and gave it to a “mad police officer ” to go on a killing spree and also to kill himself.
For now, his only punishment is that he will not be given a police burial or what we call arm party at least according to the police service regulations Act 2012 C.I.76, but the service will provide a coffin for his burial because he committed suicide.
He is dead but the service may dismiss his body because of the crimes he committed and for ending his life.
If his body is dismissed, then it means he will forfeit his entitlements and benefits. The question which will then arise is that, what will his poor innocent widow do? Is a dicey one!
A senior police officer who doubles as a psychologist by training has indicated that without any scientific basis, he believes members of the Ghana police service are the most stressed public sector workers of the country and I couldn’t agree with him the more. It is nothing but the truth considering how the police work round the clock 24/7.
To the extent that this assertion is true. Many of us in the service cannot escape blame for not doing much or speaking up for those who suffer trauma, prolonged stress and excessive exigent occupational hazards leading to mental troubles for most personnel.
It goes without saying that,in almost the entire structure of the service across the length and breadth of this country, one is likely to hear descent and respectable policemen and women either publicly or privately calling some members of the service names like “madman or woman, crazy, no nonsense, slack man and so on.
Sometimes, they even enjoy praising the weird actions of these so called “mad people” instead of actually helping or triggering Reg.78 of the police service regulations Act 2012 to save such officers. But rather, what they enjoy doing is the name calling.
Regulations 78(7) states that “an officer to a health hazard shall undergo a periodic examination at the police hospital or a police clinic or an approved hospital on referral.
Without mincing words, I think almost all members of the service are continuously exposed to hazardous situations on daily basis with its resultant psychological challenges and therefore need some attention.
In light of the above, I fully support the call by Dr Akwesi Osei of the Accra psychiatric hospital for all police officers to undergo psychological and mental checkups annually.
As police officers, we see our colleagues exhibiting suicidal and murderous tendencies at our various stations, districts, divisions, regional, units, departments and national offices but yet we do nothing to help them.
Instead of always laughing at the actions of such colleagues, calling them names, praise or jilt them for showing abnormal behaviors, let’s always do our possible best to assist them by either prompting the immediate senior senior in rank or senior officers to take action rather than wait until the worst happen only for us to say had we known this was going to do this, we would have acted in time to save lives.
Studies have shown that, before people commit suicide they discuss it people or show some signs or symptoms manifestly in words and actions. Many of them actually tell people around them as in the case of the Tema policeman’s incident where he virtually made everything clear to his wife.
In the particular case of the Tema murder and suicide, everything was written on the wall at least according to the account of the wife.
The policeman almost made the wife to know that he was going to take that action in the future by first beginning to blame her for his woes and failure in life.
He called the wife a witch and forced her to accept by harming her with a knife to say that yes indeed she was the one bewitching him.
All this while, one will ask where were the colleagues of this officer and did they bother or care about what was happening to him.
What his colleagues did or did not do or what the senior officer in charge of this police did or did not do, is a whole topic I am not ready to delve into now. I am also not ready to talk about the DOVVSU instruction to the “madman ” and his wife because I lack the needed competence to do so.
It is my hope that the police administration will take seriously the advise of experts and revisit the medical boarding of personnel who either fall sick, become incapacitated or exhibit signs of mental challenges arising out of the exigencies of the work.
The service should also make it mandatory for all officers especially those who use weapons everyday to undergo mental checkups at least once a year. This will be in the collective interest of the service and also the entire Ghanaian population whose taxes are used to purchase the weapons we use.
The service cannot afford to loose a single soul again through the trigger of a deranged or over stressed member.
It is high time the service make good use of the many students of psychology abound in the service. These psychologist can be used to periodically check the stress levels of all personnel through scientific assessments.
Let’s also revisit the barracks system whereby personnel are housed at one location and having barracks sergeants take care and making sure lives and behaves well and excessive in take of alcohol and abuse of drugs are kept under check.
The service should take its organizational safety issues very seriously by putting in place measures and structures to keep all of its personnel save.
Mohammed Abdul Hanan EL -Saeed
Chiraa Police Station
Sunyani District /BAR