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Integrating Police Community Relation Committee into law

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BEFORE the advent of the British colonial rule in 1910 by Lord Lugard, the creator in creating the universe made available a garden and secured it with righteousness, justice, fair play and equity to govern mankind and imbedded these in man’s heart and made visible what he called fruits of knowledge and evil. As a result of violating the order, the need for mankind to look for protection came to the land. The various ethic nationalities that makeup Nigeria floated some form of community based police services.

This ranges from the highly developed age grade system among the Igbos; the ‘Secret Societies’ such as the Ogboni and Oro cults in several Oduduwa communities, the Ekpe cult among the Efiks and Arewa communities, etc. All these societies helped in maintaining law and order as was given by the creator and in accordance with their own traditional settings then and general community development. However, the idea of the modern Nigeria Police Force, armed and distinct from the civil society, a creation of colonial rule came on board.

One will ask, is community policing in the present Nigeria situation characterized by deep ethnic divisions and a militarized policing philosophy? Is it a good idea, considering the fact that Nigeria has a national police force with a centralized command structure? Can it succeed in an environment where there is no love and trust between the police and the community they serve? Can community policing be pursued, or indeed be promoted, when there is neither genuine government programmes for community empowerment; no popular participation in governance? These were the questions that led to the creation of Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) throughout the nooks and crannies of the federation, forgetting that Nigeria will look down on the organization without it being integrated.

Police Community Relations Committee (PCRC) was set up to regularly asses the performance of the Police Force in their task of maintenance of law and order; to assist the Police in forging cordial relationship with the community; to serve as avenue for providing useful information to the police; to assist the police improve its image among the public and to assist the police improve its performance.

The objectives of this team were to build community police, relationships in a democratic and consultative way; to empower communities in relation to the Police and strengthen them through active involvement in policing in their areas. On the part of the police, it was aimed at enabling them to communicate their problems directly to the immediate communities they serve and through that, solicit community co-operation in the execution of their lawful duties. Most of the committees meet monthly which comprised local police officer and all key state holder groups interested in the policing of their communities; including the landlords.

The establishment of PCRC in all Police Divisions in Nigeria was therefore, one of the programmes recognised by the Inspector General of Police. Community Policing could mean policing in the community. Here, it is not fundamentally different in style from the formal Police agency, but it simply means that the police structures are closer to the people in the community. It implies greater visibility and person to person contact in the actual practice of policing through Satellite Stations or posts, bicycle and foot patrols in the community. Community policing is also used to describe the activities of community in preventing crime which are complementary to the efforts of the formal Police agency. Neighborhoods watchers are structures which rely on the building on community support on a neighbourhood basis and rely on awareness, communication and crime prevention to police the area. It is not based on the use of force and depends heavily on the formal policing. The community policing involves partnership between the Police and the community to prevent crime, find solutions to recurring problems and enhance the quality of life. Rather than mere arrest of offenders or singing the praises of the police; this partnership ensures that lives and properties are protected; that the dignity of each individual is respected and the police will come into more positive contact with the community and thus; encourage effective communication with people it serves. The close cooperation between the Police and the community will in turn encourage police professionalism and accountability to the community.

In Otuocha Zone, Anambra State, under the leadership of Chief Basil Ateli, these have been the prayer and culture of the members. In essence, the main feature of community policing can be identified as creation of real partnership between the police and communities in the discharge of their lawful duties; laying emphasis on solving the underlying problems which lead to crime rather than simply arresting offenders; while the police are more visible and accessible through beat patrol and assignment of police personnel to a small specific geographical area.

.Obidike is a PCRC officer.

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