Saved By The Whiskers!

In July when L/Cpl William Amuzu of the Tema Police Regional Command’s Rapid Deployment Force Unit run amok and killed his mother-in-law, two kids and committed suicide, the country was expectedly shocked to its marrow.

We emphasized in a subsequent editorial the importance of examining the mental health status of firearm-bearing cops periodically to isolate abnormalities with a view to obviating fatal consequences.

Elsewhere in this edition, there is a worrying story of very serious security implications involving a policeman. But for providence, we would have been composing a different editorial from this.

When a cop on duty turns his firearm on the facility, staff and guests he is detailed to protect from untoward situations, something must have gone wrong. That was the situation when the cop in question held staff and guests hostage at an international hotel in Accra on Tuesday.

This is the first time that we are reading about a policeman seizing a hotel and the facility at gun point: being a facility patronized by foreigners, the occurrence has dented our security management standing in the eyes of the international community.

It was a relief when he was overpowered and taken to a psychiatric facility for examination and attention anyway.

Following the recent scare about terrorists descending upon local hotels, we have observed the deployment of police personnel from largely the Formed Police Unit (FPU) to the major hotels across the country, especially Accra.

The action has been welcomed by many given the apprehension Ghanaians harboured when the scare confounded us.

But the story of the demented cop shows just how poorly we have handled mental health in this country, especially in state institutions whose peculiar status demands a better management of this faculty of human wellness.

We overlook the issue of mental health at our peril. Many consider mental health challenge as a distant ailment that is earmarked for others. Unfortunately, this is not the case because mental health ailment can afflict anybody. This is a reality which managers of peculiar institutions such as the Police and the military should consider as critical. Ignoring this important counsel can unleash dire consequences as we nearly witnessed when Cpl Wadzah held staff and guests hostage at an Accra hotel last Tuesday.

The airline industry has important lessons for us. Here international best practices or standard which require compulsory mental health examination of pilots is strictly observed.

Imagine a pilot suffering a sudden bout of depression or any of the mental ailments while at the throttle. The lives of hundreds of passengers could be imperiled, hence the periodic mental examination of pilots.

A few years or so ago, a German airline on an international flight made disturbing headlines when the pilot decided to fly the aircraft into a mountain killing all passengers onboard. It was later discovered that the pilot had been suffering mental challenges, a recommendation regarding his fitness or otherwise to fly overlooked. The consequence was fatal.

What happened to the Police Administration’s directive to its commanders to be observant about the mental health status of personnel under their individual commands?

Perhaps, a periodic examination of personnel by government psychiatrists would not be a bad idea. Many Ghanaians suffer psychosis, depression, schizophrenia and only such periodic examination can obviate dangerous consequences.

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