Monday, October 3

WHAT IS THE POLICY OF THE IGP ON POLICE/MEDIA RELATION?

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QUESTION OF THE DAY

When a Foroyaa reporter called the Deputy Police PRO to find out whether and why Freda Gomez and Yusef Taylor were arrested, he said that the information was new to him and would get to Foroyaa for explanation.

The most important element in criminal justice is liberty. How the state handles the liberty of the human person is what determines whether it respects fundamental rights or not.

The state is a very powerful instruments with armed soldiers, prison and police in control of jails, batons and handcuffs. A civil individual could easily be subjected to pain by being handcuffed, put in jail or asked to report on a daily basis for months on a holding charge without prosecution. The person will still feel powerless to refuse to report on bail, or resist for being put in jail or being handcuffed.

However the act of putting the liberty of the accused person at stake for a charge which does not merit prosecution, is the same as putting the liberty of a citizen at stake. In a state that truly respects fundamental rights a simple skirmish between a police officer and a citizen which does not put the police officer under any threat and is not linked to any suspicion of commission of any crime constitutes the type of issues that require civil police dialogue and cooperation. Community policing requires police officers who are social workers and are able to change the attitude of ordinary citizens towards the police. Through the discipline they show in the face of argument on how they perform their duties. It is not uncommon for ordinary citizens to stand and watch crime scenes and make comments on whether it is appropriate to handcuff an arrestee or rough up an arrestee, which could easily lead to the charge of obstructing a police officer in the execution of his or her duties.

In order to promote police/ citizens relations the standard of best practice in policing should be adopted and public relation in the community, enhanced through dialogue with special interest groups such as the media, trade unions, women organisations, youth organisations, association of persons with disabilities so as to foster civil/police relation.

Using the heavy arm of the law could be a way of making life uneasy for a person in order to teach him or her that keeping away from crime is better to prevent any contact with the police but is not the best way of turning the police into cherished servant.

We hope the inspector general of police will open up a window for discussion with the media chiefs to discuss media police relation. It is not in the interest of the police to have the type of press release that is coming from the Gambia Press Union. The more the police ignore these types of press releases the more it will impact on the assessment on the human rights records of the country.

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