“The Police is your friend.”
This phrase was intended to be reassuring and to help rebrand the Nigerian police force, but this PR bird did not just take flight. In fact, according to Vera Onana, a phrase that was intended to allay public misgivings and fears about the police only served to make it out to be a hilarious irony. Additionally, using “is” rather than “are” is a glaring grammatical mistake given that the phrase is plural.
This article does not, however, attempt to evaluate the English language proficiency of the Nigerian Police Force or critique a public relations campaign that failed to have the desired effect. Neither will this article take you on a depressing tale of the statistics on police brutality in Nigeria. This article will make better use of your time.
It is important to recognize that public perception is not homogenous and that opinions can vary significantly within and across communities. However, many Nigerians do not hold the Police in very high regard. Scratch: Many Nigerians do not hold law enforcement in very high regard, and for very good reasons too!
However, none of the very good reasons for mistrusting law enforcement is also an excuse to assault a police officer or any law enforcement officer. But if you are a celebrity or very powerful personality and you need other compelling factors to convince you why you must not, against your better judgment, assault a police or law enforcement officer other than notable and obvious reasons such as assaulting a law enforcement officer being a criminal act and it being a direct act of disrespect for their authority and the rule of law they represent, then let me quickly spell out other reasons why you should not assault or condone the assault of a police officer.
- Upholding the Rule of Law: Assaulting a police or law enforcement officer undermines the very foundation of the rule of law. The rule of law ensures that everyone is subject to and protected by the law, including both civilians and law enforcement personnel. When an officer is assaulted, it sends a message that some individuals believe they are above the law or can take justice into their own hands. This erodes trust in the legal system and can lead to a breakdown in social order.
- Protecting Public Safety: Despite their well-documented failings, police and law enforcement officers play a crucial role in ensuring public safety. They respond to emergencies, investigate crimes, and maintain order in society. Assaulting an officer not only puts their safety at risk but also hampers their ability to carry out their duties effectively. By attacking a law enforcement officer, individuals jeopardize the safety of the community they serve, as it may deter officers from taking proactive measures to prevent crime and protect citizens.
- Preserving the Integrity of the Justice System: Assaulting a police or law enforcement officer can have far-reaching implications for the integrity of the justice system. Officers are often called upon to serve as witnesses in criminal cases, and their credibility and reliability are essential to ensuring a fair trial. When an officer is assaulted, it can undermine their ability to provide accurate testimony or cooperate fully with investigations, leading to challenges in prosecuting offenders and potentially resulting in miscarriages of justice.
- Promoting Respect for Human Rights: You cannot fight for human rights for all while neglecting the rights of others. Respect for human rights, including the right to physical integrity and security, is a fundamental principle that societies strive to uphold. Police and law enforcement officers are tasked with protecting these rights and ensuring justice for all. Assaulting an officer violates their basic human rights and, by extension, undermines the principle of respecting the rights of others. Upholding the sanctity of human rights is vital for maintaining a just and equitable society.
- Fostering Trust and Collaboration: Trust between law enforcement and the community is essential for effective crime prevention and solving cases. Assaulting an officer erodes the trust and cooperation necessary for a productive relationship between law enforcement and the public. When trust is lost, individuals may be less willing to come forward with information or seek assistance from law enforcement, hindering efforts to address crime and maintain community safety.
I am not under any presumptions, and I understand that many of us are disgruntled and angry at the “system” and the agencies that serve it, particularly law enforcement agencies and agents. However, we must deconstruct the system and look beyond the veil of these agents, who are trained to carry out instructions to the latter. It’s essential to recognize that police and law enforcement officers are part of a larger system and are often tasked with carrying out instructions or policies set by higher authorities or governing bodies. It’s crucial to separate the actions of individual officers from the broader systemic issues that may exist.
Addressing grievances and seeking change in the system requires understanding the underlying structures, policies, and practices that shape law enforcement agencies. By directing attention towards systemic issues, it becomes possible to advocate for meaningful reforms that can lead to more equitable and just outcomes.
It is important to approach these efforts with a constructive mindset, acknowledging that the vast majority of law enforcement officers strive to fulfill their duties responsibly and ethically. By focusing on systemic factors and engaging in meaningful discussions and actions, it becomes possible to drive positive change while promoting a more just and accountable law enforcement system.
It’s important to note that while assaulting law enforcement officers is considered wrong, this does not mean that law enforcement is immune to criticism or that individual officers are exempt from accountability for any wrongdoing. Upholding the law and maintaining order should always be balanced with respect for human rights and the principles of justice.
So, while the Nigerian Police Force is not your friend, it is neither your enemy, and you should not assault a police or law enforcement officer—not even if you are the son of an Afrobeat legend.
Annakar, Hallelujah Tor Esq. is a lawyer based in Abuja with interests in corporate commercial law, technology and human rights.