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The police must understand their role in a democratic state


The police force represent the strong arm of the state as in Section 180. The police are operationally independent of the government. This means that although the government is responsible for the police budget, the legislation that creates the laws under which police operate and for appointing the Inspector General of Police (IGP) as in Section 178 (1). The police decide how they will go about their various duties in maintaining peace and order for a better society as stipulated on Section 178 (2).

Moreover, the separation of powers between the police and government is considered a significant ideology of democracy in the 21st Century. The separation of powers assists in ensuring that the police are not used in a partisan political way to harass and punish political opponents and protesters.

The last time I checked there is also a separation of roles and powers between the courts and the police force. As a result it is the role of the police to bring suspected offenders before the courts and the courts’ role to decide. It is also the duty of the police to investigate, they aren’t the courts, and should not treat the citizens as innocent until proven guilty as in Section 24(3) A of the 1997 Constitution.

The police are important in a democratic society because they provide for the rule of law, which enhances civic trust and helps maintain social order. Equality under the law is a basic principle of a democratic society. (Majumder, 2017)

MIT Professor Emeritus Gary Marx notes, “It is ironic that police are both a major support and a major threat to a democratic society.” On one hand, police enhance democracy by exemplifying one of its central tenets, the rule of law, while also suppressing crime. On the other hand, police are granted by government the exclusive power to use force, which can be abused to undermine democracy. In either case, they play a prominent role in the success or failure of a democratic society.

In a Democratic State the police are to protect, serve and to deliver criminals into the hands of the law. Police are responsible for catching criminals who threaten the livelihood, property and peace of other citizens. The police have various roles. Officially, the core functions of the police include enforcing the law, keeping the peace and protecting life and property. But not killing the sovereign citizens as per expressing their constitutional rights as guaranteed by Section 25 (1) A, 25(1) B and 25(1) D respectively.

A hard or uncompromising attitude to protests prioritises enforcing the law regardless of the consequences for keeping the peace, whereas a more conciliatory style of policing political protest generally prioritises keeping the peace. When keeping the peace is prioritised police will generally only make arrests in a protest situation where the offences are serious and on balance the risk to life and property in not making the arrest outweighs the risk to life and property associated with making the arrest.

Furthermore, the National Council for Civic Education should also act as soon as possible to minimise defect as in Section 199 (1) A, B and D for a better society we all want to see.

Saidina Alieu Jarjou
Political Activist

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