The right to life is fundamental
Be it young, middle-aged, or aged, no one is immune from police brutality and gross misuse of power. Human life, inarguably, is inestimable. The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right to life. Around the world, governments shoulder the responsibility of protecting the lives and properties of their nationals. Whatever involves human life is held in high esteem, be it medical school or police academy.
Across the world, there has been a wave of police brutality against ordinary citizens. From Europe to Asia, Africa to the Americas, police brutality has become a grim phenomenon. The World Internal Security and Police Index reported the Police Forces in Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Uganda, Pakistan to have performed worst among other nations of the world.
Nigeria currently has a centralized Police Force. The Force has a long history of police brutality right from the colonial period when they were used against agitating people to facilitate colonial exploitation. The colonial legacy of brute actions against government critics lingers on in the Force, resulting in bad policing. After colonial rule, the Police Force has not achieved reforms to attain quality, human-interest policing in the country.
Section 33 of the 1999 constitution of Nigeria states that every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life. As much as there are constitutional rights documented, many lives have been lost to the excesses of rifle-wielding, trigger-happy policemen.
From checkpoints, police posts, nightclubs, many have fallen victim of police brutality. Some stories told, some untold. Some victims are forgotten, some are only dark histories. And still, this continues to happen year in, year out. Over years, in some other countries, like the USA, young people have fallen victim of police brutality. As the #EndSARS protests riddled Nigeria in Africa, across Europe, the Black Lives Matter protests riddled European countries, too. That is to say, nowhere is safe from the social malaise of police brutality.
Why Police Forces need more education
The duty of the Police is to prevent and detect crimes, protect the rights of citizens irrespective of class, religion, or social difference. However, the Police Forces in most countries have failed in their duties in doing so. Leaders have used the Police Forces as a punitive tool to mete out punishments to critics of their governments. In protests across the world, police officers have employed lethal force against citizens without restraints. Ordinary citizens have now lost their trust in the Police Force. The Police are always seen as another political arm of the government due to the level of human rights violations and extrajudicial killings, especially in African countries.
In Nigeria, for example, the Police Act prescribes that "in the individual exercise of his powers as a police officer, every police officer shall be personally liable for any misunderstanding of his powers, or any act done in excess of his authority." As much as there are rules guiding the operations of police officers, many have violated them. And only a few of them have been prosecuted.
From approaches to some police officers, one would realize they do not respect the constitution they are meant to respect as officers of the law. Statements like "I'll kill you and nothing will happen" lend credence to this. The cost of human life has now become worthless. Disregard for human rights has become prevalent in the Police Force. Officers stroll around the streets with rifles, assaulting ordinary citizens, and sometimes claim lives. It is only an irony when they are referred to as 'officers of the law.' With the state of education in Nigeria, an O'Level certificate is not ideal for recruiting Nigerians into the Force. More so, mass recruitment has prevented meticulous observation to recruitment into the Police Force.
Countries in which education is the fundamental requirement to get into the Police Force record little or no cases of police brutality resulting in injury or death. The Norwegian Police Force, for example, has a three-year bachelor's degree as its basic training for officers. Police officers are unarmed and they use guns only in extreme situations. In Sweden, it takes two-and-a-half years of training to become a police officer. Applicants are subjected to physical, psychological, legal, and sporting activity exams before being accepted into the force. An educated Police Force would have positive effects on the nation's policing. Educated officers demonstrate better skills of problem-solving policing. A study from the University of California says that officers with college degrees have been observed to use less force when performing their duties. Police departments should seek to make sure officers get good education on what it means to wear a state badge as a protector of lives and properties. By this, better policing is achievable.
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