There is no issue that affects Nigerians more than the issue of security. This is because security revolves around our day to day survival from the family unit to national levels. It is a concern that cuts across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria and every citizen irrespective of their status is a stakeholder. However, security seem to elude us as our crime chart is becoming more sophisticated. Currently we are grappling with domestic terrorism and armed banditry that has taken international dimension.
Armed robbery and kidnapping are gradually settling to become an acceptable norm in Nigeria. Above all, there is the threat of violent extremism as a result of increasing cases of radicalization. In all of these, we look up to our Nigeria Police Force to protect us and ensure law and order. However, the Nigeria Police Force, with its current attitude, structure, command and control cannot efficiently protect us from these crimes. This is why we keep deploying our military to contain violent escalation.
The truth of the matter is that we must move beyond containment of violence and address the root cause of the violence in the first place. In this regard, we need to make our community policing strategy effective. Community policing means a situation where communities take a unified stand against crime, violence, and disregard for the law, and make a commitment to increasing crime-prevention and intervention activities. This concept of policing has been found to be potent in building stronger, more self-sufficient communities and by extension potent for preventing violent extremism.
Today, community policing represents a significant paradigm shift from professional-model policing. It connotes a proactive and collaborative partnership between the community and the police to combat crime for enhanced national security. It is a model that brings the people together to protect themselves and address their common problems. It is therefore a necessary approach to better protect and serve communities at risk for violent radicalization and violent extremism.
Community policing creates human police officers that interface with the communities and help initiate discussions and dialogues. Community policing greatly enhances the frequency of police-community interactions and potentially improves the quality of communications. A community policing approach to countering terrorism and violent extremism is cheaper to run and helps to develop community resilience against violent extremism.
Community policing involves the deployment of a mainstream police officer to a local community who establishes honest and open dialogue on sensitive issues with community leaders and members, such as concerning terrorism, hate crimes, and discrimination. The outreach officer also help the community to develop their traditional models of protecting themselves and resolving conflicts. The mainstream officer’s aim is to be as transparent as possible regarding crime fighting and police conduct.
Community outreach officers meet and establish one-on-one relationships with community leaders to open communication channels. They also build partnerships with community-based organizations, including faith-based and interfaith organizations. We can adopt this model by initiating a pilot in a state in Nigeria. The Police Post in local communities could be used to initiate the outreach centres for local communities. Community outreach officers are then expected to teach communities about crime (including hate crimes), police work, and community resources to combat criminal activity instead of using the Police Post to arrest people and detain them or extort them.
The outreach centres will help to build knowledge and awareness in communities about violent extremism and how to prevent it. Community outreach officers will help communities and individuals respond to their current problems. They will help community members access available resources to address social and legal concerns. They will also provide communities with knowledge and skills to assess the threat level of individuals and educate them on how to respond.
Community outreach officers promote the civic engagement of community members, including promoting women and youth advocacy on civic and public safety issues.
The task before the current IGP is to activate the community policing department of the Nigeria Police Force by carrying out a pilot in any of the states of the federation. It is high time we began to build the 21st century Nigeria Police Force and policing strategy. The fact that the Civilian Joint Task Force is working effectively in the North East Nigeria is a demonstration that incorporating the communities in our policing framework will greatly enhance policing in Nigeria.
My assumption is that Nigeria will be a safe country when the police is efficient and that there is no way the Nigeria Police Force can be efficient without the inputs of the local communities.
– Mahmud is an expert on security issues
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