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Should we blame SARS or the system that put them there? #EndSARS

June 11, 2018

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Should we blame SARS or the system that put them there? #EndSARS

Months ago the #EndSARS campaign surfaced online for the first time. There were allegations and indictment by the general public on the men of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad. Even though the conversation was momentarily raised on social media there was no call to action to take the issue further. Nigerians have resumed again on social media to force the Buhari administration to take immediate steps to contain rising cases of brutality linked to the police Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

My experience

My experience with the men of SARS was mysterious. How do you stop a young man on a motorcycle to come down for no particular reason? I was asked to come down and come close to their car. They asked me questions about my name, what I do and where I was going. I showed them my card and they started cracking jokes about my state of origin. My only saving grace was that I was not carrying my laptop that day.

This and many other atrocities have been committed by the men of SARS across Nigeria. But a closer look at the whole issue will be to look at the reason why the entity was set up in the first place. From its name, the force is supposed to guide against any form of robbery. Which means that they ought to run covert ops and deep-rooted investigations. However, we need to look at the barrier entry into joining this “elite” force.

The process of joining the Police force

Joining the police force is shouldering great responsibilities because human life is involved. Part of the job is rescuing humans trapped in dangerous situations, saving the property of fellow citizens, being on guard duty against criminals and bringing to justice. It is rather sad that the barrier to entry of becoming a police officer not to talk of one of the elite units is low.

General Requirements to Join the Police Force

  • Applicant must not be less than 1.67m tall for men and 1.63m for women.
  • Must have an expanded chest measurement of 86.34cm for men.
  • The applicant must not be an ex-convict.
  • Must be a Nigerian citizen.
  • He/she must be medically, mentally and physically fit.
  • Must have an ID, either the national ID, voter’s card or other valid forms of identification.
  • Must provide two verifiable references from either a traditional ruler or local government chairman or from other eligible persons as recommended by the police.

Beyond the above, you have O’level certificate for senior levels in the police force.

What is obtainable in advanced countries?

In the US there is federal policing and state policing. Both have different powers and jurisdictions. To become a police officer in the US it is as difficult as getting admission into colleges. The requirements are below;

  • Be a United States citizen (waived in certain agencies if the applicant is a lawful resident).
  • Must have a high school diploma or a GED and if necessary a college degree or served in the United States military without a dishonorable discharge;
  • Be in good medical, physical, and psychological condition;
  • Maintain a clean criminal record without either serious or repeated misdemeanor or any felony convictions;
  • Must have a valid driver’s license with a clean driving record and that is not currently or has a history of being suspended or revoked;
  • Be of high moral character;
  • Not have a history of prior narcotic or repeated marijuana use or alcoholism;
  • Not have a history of ethical, professional, prior employment, motor vehicle, educational, or financial improprieties;
  • Not have a history of domestic violence or mental illness;
  • Not to pose a safety and security risk;
  • Be legally eligible to own and carry a firearm.

Beyond all these you have to undertake repeated interviews, written tests, medical examinations, physical fitness tests, comprehensive background investigations, fingerprinting, drug testing, a police oral board interview, a polygraph examination and consultation with a psychologist are common practices used to review the suitability of candidates.

The barrier of entry into the police force can become competitive if we just take a cue from the US. We can now have reasonable and responsible people in the police force, Nigeria will be better for it. The major issue with the police force is a structural crisis. If we #EndSARS we not solving the problem, we are just scraping the surface.

Feature Image Credit: Connect Nigeria

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