The recent announcement of a N13 billion take-off grant for community policing in the country was cheery. As a strategy for combating the rising insecurity in the country, many Nigerians have for long canvassed for community policing. But the whole idea remains vague with conflicting statements between the Inspector-General of Police and some governors. There is therefore an urgent need for clarity and for all the relevant stakeholders to agree on the modalities before the idea is lost in the murky waters of politics and power-play.
Ordinarily, community policing is not a new concept. It is a well acceptable form of policing at the grassroots across the globe and notable countries, including the United States, operate this mode of security arrangement. The initiative is predicated on the belief that both the police and citizens at the grassroots have a joint responsibility to fight crime. Under this concept, both the police and the locals build synergy aimed at guaranteeing the security of lives and property in the neighborhoods by freely exchanging ideas, and promptly sharing intelligence and acting on such. Community police personnel are expected to have frequent contacts with members of the host community all with a view to enforcing law and order, solving local problems and passionately taking up emerging challenges in the community, including caring for victims of insecurity and injustice.
Security experts in the country have for long harped on the necessity to increase the intensity of police-community relations as a platform for solving problems at the local level. Such platforms are expected to be built through door-to-door visits by police personnel and residential meetings that will also serve as the avenue for them to gather information and know the concerns of the people. Meanwhile, the locals will also be granted free access to the police to report their concerns. Police personnel at this level are expected to be professional in the discharge of their responsibilities and simultaneously build and sustain a platform of interaction with the locals.
Against the foregoing background, the idea of community policing in Nigeria, particularly in the face of our acute security crises, is long overdue. However, at the root of effective community policing, according to experts, is firm trust between the people and its operators. But given the peculiar situation in Nigeria where there is a huge trust deficit between the police and the people, we hope efforts will be made in confidence-building. We also hope that persons to be recruited into the community policing will be well trained while strict disciplinary measures are incorporated into the system that will make corruption, indiscipline and other forms of misdemeanour intolerable.
In endorsing the idea, we expect the federal government to clearly unveil the structure of the proposed community policing, the nature of its operations, its method of supervision and composition so that citizens can have a full picture of what is coming to their neighbourhoods ahead of time and also be carried along in this proposed arrangement. The earlier this is done, the better for all the stakeholders.
The public deserves to be educated on how this mode of policing will operate: whether it will be supervised from Abuja or coordinated by various state commands of the Nigeria Police or whether community police commands will be established in every local government area of the country to oversee the activities of the grassroots’ police in each local council. Or indeed whether a special body will be founded to run the operations. These clarifications have become compelling in view of the interest this idea has generated and the yet-to-be resolved controversy between the Inspector-General of Police and the governors.