Since the protests against police brutality seized the consciousness of Nigerians, the buzz words have been “police reforms.”
The exact content of these reforms have not been spelt out by the protesters, their supporters, the government or the police authorities.
But it is clear that when people talk about the reforms they mean, without specifying it, that the police should shun corruption, be humane, avoid extra-judicial killing and be a friendly outfit.
These reforms have been the subject of several reports and seminars in the past but not much of visible changes in police manners has been noticed by the public or even initiated by the appropriate authorities.
With the protests that gripped the consciousness of Nigerians and the world recently for both the right and wrong reasons, it seems indisputable that, willynilly, we will have to deal with the complex issue of police reforms now if we do not want to risk another unpleasant harvest of horror.
It is a well-known fact that the welfare of policemen, especially those in the lower cadre, has not been given appropriate attention in the past.
This welfare includes uniforms for them in cold or warm weather, accommodation, death benefits, insurance etc.
That means that their salaries, allowances and conditions of service ought to be generally reviewed upwards to motivate them for better service.
This means that the funding that is available for the police must be sourced from elsewhere other than the customary allocation from the Federal Government.
Even though all the state governments have been supporting the police commands in their states, the level of funding is still insufficient to give Nigeria a modern police force.
That is why the idea of a Police Trust Fund that was mooted since the days of Mr. Tafa Balogun as Inspector General deserves to be supported by all.
The bill passed by the National Assembly and signed into law by President Muhammadu Buhari earlier in the year makes it possible for more money to be made available to the police for their work.
The recruitment of people into the Police Force has often been criticised for its lack of transparency over the years. Before the Police Service Commission (PSC) was established, recruitment was handled in a cult-like manner with the Inspector General and his favourites making the choices whimsically with no respect for merit.
If the recruitment is lacking in merit, how then can those recruited into the force be expected to uphold the virtues of meritocracy, fairness and equity in their dealings with the public? No chance.
It is this lack of merit that leads many of the policemen into becoming political partisans so that they can gain some unmerited favours.
There is hardly any way a policeman who has not been taught the virtues of meritocracy in training can be insulated from situations of partisanship.
However, this situation can be ameliorated by regular training and retraining of policemen and women. But the general complaint is that the training facilities in the police schools are nothing to write home about.
The equipment is said to be archaic and clearly unsuitable for the training of policemen in the 21st century.
The sophistication in crime today demands that those who have to prevent or detect same must themselves be well trained with up-to-date equipment, tactics and strategy in intelligence gathering.
Without this level of training and sophistication their job will continue to be a daunting task which will bring frustration to not only the police as an institution but the public as well.
The other point to note is that the police force in Nigeria is over-centralised.
Even though the force has 17 zonal commands headed by Assistant Inspectors General (AIG), the Commissioners of Police manning the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) still report directly to the Inspector-General.
Also even though the governors are said to be the chief security officers of their states, they have no operational control over the Commissioners of Police heading their state commands.
This anomaly is one of the reasons that State Police has become an attractive option whose time has come.
This idea was approved by the 2014 National Conference and the Nasir El-Rufai committee set up by the ruling party, APC, a few years ago.
There has been an agitation for State Police because of the obvious inadequacy of the current police architecture. But perhaps over and above everything else in the police reform mix is the principle of policing.
The Nigerian policeman is apparently trained to be rude, rough, brutal, and to be generally disrespectful to the public.
This appears to be responsible for the many cases of violence exhibited by our policemen. The first principle at training ought to be the respect for human life.
If human life is respected, people will not be shot by the police whimsically, unthinkingly.
The Daily Times believes that if all policemen are taught to be respectful to all citizens, high and low, and to remain passionately respectful of human life much of the brutality that occurs will be drastically reduced.
We hope that this time around the authorities will muster the political will to give Nigeria a police force that is friendly and humane through immediate and comprehensive reforms.