Monday, December 22, 2014

The Power of Visual Images; The Power of Celebrity Status; The Power of The Police

Most of this played out in my mind barely 2 weeks ago.

Visual Images
Just about a month ago, I received a video via a group I'm part of on Whatsapp. Save for the comments from others in the group succeeding the upload of this video, I wouldn't have downloaded it (not very keen on using my data to download just anything). And then I downloaded it, and I've been able to watch the video just once. Too traumatising! The video was of an adult physically abusing a baby. From the group and later from news media, I found out the adult was a nanny tasked to take care of the baby. The images were just too horrifying. The video I learnt went viral over the internet, and from the BBC website, I learnt "... the case sparked outrage across the country (Uganda) after a video was released". I also learnt from the same website that the father of the baby reported the abuse to the police, and circulated the video online to family members. The footage was later shared more widely, provoking horror and upset internationally (worldwide). The nanny has since been arrested, tried in court and sentenced for her crime (all in the space of I'd say a month). Thank God. This nanny will pay for the crime she committed. She is currently serving her sentence. Glad justice wasn't delayed.

Celebrity Status
I'd say a day or so after I saw this video, I heard a story. Kwaw Kese, a Ghanaian musician (celebrity) was arrested by the police for allegedly smoking an illegal substance in public. Yeah, I'm sure countless of other Ghanaians have been arrested for smoking similar substances in public, but no one gets to hear about it. For obvious reasons, this is news. Oh no! I won't begrudge Kwaw Kese sneezing becoming news, whereas me doing same really is nothing. He is a celebrity and I'm sure he has worked hard to achieve this status. What really does get me thinking is, quite a number of other celebrities have spoken out against his arrest. I hear there is a campaign on social media calling for his release. Yes, there are problems with our police and the judicial system in Ghana, and some celebrities are calling for his release for a number of reasons.
Eg. 1. Chris Brown came to perform in Ghana and supposedly smoked an illegal substance while performing on stage. He was not arrested (I doubt if he was even questioned) and allowed to go back to his country.
2. The police themselves fail to arrest and prosecute their own when they commit crimes. cc: the #CalBank #GhanaPolice shooting.
While some are rubbishing what the police are doing in the arrest of Kwaw Kese, others are begging the judicial system to be lenient with him. Okay, if he did what the police are saying he did, then technically, he did commit a crime. Hardened criminals have friends and family who love them and don't want them to spend even an hour behind bars. Is that justification for releasing them? Well, Kwaw Kese has been behind bars for close to a month and he is not being granted bail. Apparently, narcotics related offences are non-bailable.
I'm sure there are issues here. Personally, I have problems with our judicial system and with the Ghana Police Service, but you won't get me calling for the release of a suspect in a criminal offence because of those issues. Our celebrities shouldn't forget that they are role models to a whole lot of people, children inclusive. What is the message they are sending out there? They have the platform to be heard by a wide array of people. They should use it carefully. There aren't a shortage of causes to lend their voices to. There are campaigns for eradicating poverty, for ending hunger and for world peace to name a few. There's even the #ISpeakForJustice campaign if they feel so strongly about the police in Ghana.

The Police
Rewind to March 8, 2014. Corporal Bernard Frimpong walked into Cal Bank and opened fire right there in the banking hall. The room was full of people, all of whom were unarmed. Why? He had a disagreement with one customer outside the bank and knew he could open fire inside the bank and get away with it. Three persons sustained gunshot wounds. A report was made against the corporal at a police station, and barely a month after the incident, the corporal was still in uniform and working at his station. Everything that happened was caught on camera by the bank's CCTV, which is now available to the police. In an interview in September 2014, a PRO of the police said the footage is being used to train their officers on proper conduct (no comment). I should add that right after the incident, a police PRO reported in different media in Ghana that the customer who had the disagreement with the corporal was a suspicious character who struggled with the corporal over his weapon, causing the weapon to fall and start firing (I wonder where that weapon was manufactured and how shallow minded the police think Ghanaians are). Eventually, this same PRO came out to say the customer was an innocent victim in an unfortunate incident, and that the corporal had been detained while investigations were ongoing (he didn't even apologise). Thing is, the harm was already done. Person A might have heard on medium A that the customer was labeled a suspicious character by the police, but person A might not have heard on medium B when the customer was labeled an innocent victim by the same police. In the interview in September 2014, the police PRO revealed that the corporal had been arrested and is out on bail. Apparently attempted murder of a roomful of people is a bailable offence in Ghana. Corporal Bernard Frimpong has supposedly been out on bail since March 2014. We are in December 2014.

Visual Images, Celebrity Status, The Police
The police are not above the law, but increasingly, the police themselves are making it seem that way. So, the police say they are using the CCTV footage to train their own. How about releasing that footage online so Ghanaians can train themselves on what to do when a police officer opens fire in a bank? But seriously, imagine the international outrage that would follow, should a video showing a Ghana police officer walking into a bank, and opening fire on unarmed civilians, be released online. (I know you were all scared and running for your lives, but didn't anyone in the bank that day record this incident on their phone?) The power of visual images cannot be overstated. If a celebrity whose flight from the law will not be so easy, has been refused bail for a narcotics offence, then is it too much to ask that a police officer who attempted to murder a roomful of people should be refused bail?
Celebrities, please if one of your own is suspected to have committed a crime, how about you aid the authorities in their investigations, rather than call for the authorities to also break the law. The power of celebrity status cannot be exaggerated. If you want a campaign to lend your voice to, how about #ISpeakForJustice (that's me calling for support), at least then you'll be speaking out for justice, plain and simple, not asking that rules or laws be broken. That way, no international act can come to Ghana, commit a crime and walk away. Why? Because we have been speaking for justice and we have been heard. Or you could set up your own charity and help the less privileged in society.
Police, do not shy away from prosecuting your own. What example are you setting for criminals and potential criminals? The message I'm getting from you is, if you want to be a successful criminal, join the police service. Then, even your bosses will cover up for you if knowledge of your crime gets out there. The power of the police should not be overlooked.

P.S. Finally, (I just had to add this) if it were possible for me to die and come back, I'd make sure what ever crime committed against me is captured on camera, and that footage is available to me (viral videos, here I come). Or I'd come back as a celebrity. Even if I commit a crime, other celebrities will demand, while others appeal for my release (better yet I'd be the kind of celebrity that can go and commit a crime in someone's country, and walk away a free person). But, it would be best for me to come back as a police officer. I could commit any crime and get away with it. Even, rather than admit I was wrong, the police administration would cover up for me, and put the blame on someone else.
It really is not too late (Ghana Police Service, here I come!).
http://www.facebook.com/ispeakforjustice

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