Many of us who have lived or are still living in some of the world’s advanced democracies would probably understand better what it really means to live in an organised, civilised and secure society. The protection of lives and property of the citizens, irrespective of their social status, remains sacrosanct in the social contract the governments of such nations have with their people. Even, sometimes, illegal residents are accorded the same cover as the nationals of the host countries.
Interestingly though, while the police force is largely prompt and responsive in such developed societies, still the citizens consistently challenge their governments to spark new ideas in creating a safer society.
In Britain for instance, although its policies on policing have continued to receive accolades globally as one of the best and most effective in the world, it keeps creating strategically diverse operational units that address specific safety and security needs of the society. And one of these proven approaches is community policing.
There, the concept of community policing is well described not just in words but also in the policy direction of the police force and several essential schemes that are emerging from it.
Few weeks ago the Metropolitan police announced that in helping to “engage with London’s diverse communities as effectively as possible”, budding police constables must be able to speak, apart from English language, at least one of 14 foreign languages including Yoruba (the language of one of the tribes in Nigeria).
Now, that is a dynamic and responsive police force unlike what obtains in this corner of the world.
Hence, it was heartwarming to hear the Nigerian Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase propose, at a recent National Security Summit, the idea of community policing as an alternative plan to effectively curb insecurity in Nigeria. If anything, the proposal offers a little sense of optimism in an otherwise pessimistic environment.
I reckon that the inability of the Nigerian police force to think through, before this perilous time, a practicable police-community operational strategy has allowed otherwise marginal acts of criminality to advance to the ferocious insurgency that we currently face.
It is however never too late to arrest the horrid situation. And I suppose the journey to producing virile, proactive, engaging and result-focused policing has begun with the faculty of Solomon Arase. But there must be clarity of purpose in the new direction.
This proposal for community policing must be well articulated and delivered in the simplest form that will be easily understood by the average Nigerian that it seeks to protect. It shouldn’t end up like most of our government’s policies that are usually active and fascinating on paper but lacking and ineffectual in practice.
For this to attain its goals in every sense, Solomon Arase must glean from proven examples and draw ideas widely from various communities, like Britain or Tanzania amongst other nations whose community policing strategies have been applauded as successful and exemplary both in the decision room and on the field of action.
Essentially, just like in those countries, the Nigerian Inspector General of Police must engage and consult profoundly with the youth to bring on board tested and viable contributions on community segmentation and area specific outlines that will holistically strengthen the new approach.
Such engagements informed the recent strategic collaboration between the UK police and the Spanish government to curb the anti-social behaviours and criminal acts that occur in holiday spots in Spain. The collaboration which allowed some British police officers to patrol tourist islands in Spain frequented by British tourists would not have happened had the police not involved the youths in the process.
Lending credence to the special operation, the British ambassador to Spain said, “The presence of UK police officers will help to remind British holidaymakers of the importance of respecting local laws and customs, ensuring that everyone has a safe and enjoyable holiday, free from trouble and crime.
However, it should be emphasised that this is not suggesting that the Nigerian police should send out of its limited number of officers to rescue situations abroad while the major security matter is still calling for serious attention at home. It is just a way of highlighting that proactive thinking and ideas aggregation, especially one that focuses on a crime-prone group in the society, can make a fresh initiative more effective and help to a bring its relevance to the fore.
So as Solomon Arase has risen to address other critical issues of improving the welfare of the officers, fighting corruption in the ranks, recruitment of more hands, and provision of necessary equipment and training for the force, we can only hope, at this moment, that he will be swift in delivering these lofty programmes towards making life safer for every Nigerian.