Last Tuesday night I paid a surprise visit to a number of Police Stations in our Nation’s Capital. I did so at the invitation of Acting Deputy Commissioner for Operations, David Manning.
The purpose of the visit was to see firsthand the state of Police stations as well as to hear the grievances of our men and women in blue who are tasked to man them.
Since my visit was unannounced the stations were not fully manned. One station had only one officer looking after it.
When I asked those on duty what the main challenges they face during their shift were, many responded, they had no vehicle to carry out patrols or respond to public complaints. Those stations that had a vehicle raised the issue it was in poor condition or without fuel. A common concern raised at all stations was transport to and from work.
There are three eight-hour shifts in a day: morning (7am-3pm) afternoon (3pm-11pm) and night (11pm to 7am). Due to the lack of public transport at night, those working the night shift are forced to come to work in the afternoon and wait until their shift starts at 11pm. While the afternoon shift who finish at 11pm are forced to stay at the station until the morning before they can return home.
Some stations didn't even have basic administrative policing tools like an Occurrence Book and were instead registering public complaints in the Charge Book.
It is understandable these issues result in low staff morale‚ which in turn cripples the force’s ability to adequately police our communities.
One of the more notable concerns was the poor state and hygiene of the stations, buai stains on the floor and along the walls, appalling state of toilets, and poor overall condition of police cells.
So how do we address these issues?
While there are many critical priorities, an immediate issue will be staff punctuality and station hygiene. The plan is to address this through the introduction of a bio-metric attendance system at each station to enforce punctuality and curb absenteeism.
We will also consider introducing Saturday morning station clean up, inviting members of the community, church groups, schools and community volunteers to participate. Such initiatives build stronger relationships between the public and police.
To address the transport issue Acting Commissioner Francis Tokura and two Acting Deputies have proposed introducing a pick and up drop off service to ensure officers get to work on time and back home without delay. I will be meeting with the Finance Secretary this week to request a number of APEC buses be donated to the Police Department to implement this program.
Based on a discussion with the shift officers, the minimum number of vehicles required per station is three: two for patrol and response and one for admin staff.
Earlier last week I met with Puma Energy management to introduce the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) fuel management system in all Police vehicles. It would enable a fast, cashless, monitoring and control method in refueling police vehicles. An electronic tag is fixed to the vehicle that not only identifies the vehicle but also controls how much fuel is dispensed in each vehicle at any one time. This would also address fuel wastage or theft and allow monitoring of fuel usage by each and every vehicle.
Police vehicles would also be fitted with dash cameras - which include GPS tracking - recording both outside and inside the vehicle.
In an effort to make our police stations and police officers more accountable CCTV cameras will be installed that feed into a central control room would provide the ability to monitor all stations within NCD in real time.
We will also consider trialing body cameras on a number of officers, tracking their movements during foot patrols. This will facilitate openness and transparency within the work of police services.
The plan is to design and pilot the system in one police station before expanding the program to include each and every police station around the country.
Under the Marape-Steven Government modernizing our Police Force will lead to safer communities.