The room is stuffy. It is only a little more spacious than a lotto kiosk. It is like a cubicle in a students’ hostel. But here, it is supposed to house a family: husband, wife and children. And sometimes long distant relatives.
This is the Accra Central Police Barracks.
But the deplorable nature of the barracks and its accompanying accommodation challenge of our peace officers is not what has filled by heart with pity as I engage in this insensitive and, perhaps, senseless part of my job.
About half a dozen women are packed in this room. Many more grief-stricken women and a few men sit outside the corridor due to lack of space in the room. The eyes of the women in the room are red with weeping. But they keep wiping them to mask their own grief and do what is proper but it seems impossible under the situation.
In the mini-circle formed by the women, sit a young woman in his late twenties or early thirties. She is drenched in tears. A woman is kneeling by her, holding a bottle of soft drink to her mouth, and urging her to take a sip. Another woman holds her aching hand and rubs an ointment to soothe the pain whose cause she does not know.
Her name is Blessed. I did not know her full name. I did not ask her age or profession. Neither did I ask about the name, age and sex of her child. It was no longer “their” child.
The human part of me started: “For heaven’s sake, why won’t you leave her alone?” But the other insensitive part encouraged me to just get a story.
One has to be brave to be a journalist. But there is a difference between holding a microphone to the quaking lips of a corrupt official and squeezing the hell of hideous information out of them and another thing trying to speak to someone like Madam Blessed.
“Please, just hold yourself up and speak to him,” one woman urged her as she blew her running nose. Her phone rang. Someone picks it, stared vacantly at the screen. And then muted it. Blessed then turned to me.
“It was between 8pm and 9pm when he said he was leaving for work after taking his supper. He left on his motor bike…,” Blessed narrated.
“He was supposed to be back this morning but when he did not get home at the time he was supposed to be here, I called his phone but he did not answer. After some time, I called his sister at Teshie to find out whether she had heard from him. The sister said she hadn’t. She also called about 20 times without any response.
“She then suggested that I go to the Kaneshie Police station, where he worked, to find out. I agreed but decided to take the child to school first. But before I got back home to prepare and leave for Kaneshie, some senior police officers were here.”
The senior police officers came with bad news. They came to announce to her that her marital status had changed from a wife to a widow. Her beloved husband, Lance Corporal Juttah Dormevenu, had been killed.
“He was on night patrols with his colleagues around De-Mond in North Kaneshie when they saw a man loitering about suspiciously and decided to accost and search him. It is a normal practice,” Accra Police Public Relations Officer, DSP Freeman Tettey told me.
But on this occasion, the outcome was abnormal. It was something which shocked the officers who stood by while Lance Corporal Dormevenu conducted the search.
“The suspect, 35-year old Ayuba Ankrah, quickly removed a knife and stabbed the officer in the neck. As the officer fell, he picked the officer’s riffle and started running away.”
The police did not shoot him. They shot at him. They shot his thigh in order to weaken and overpower him. The suspect fell and rose and continued running. They chased him into a house and overpowered him.
Lance Corporal Dormevenu was bleeding profusely. His colleagues rushed him to the Cocoa Clinic at Kaneshie and he was later referred to the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital. But he could not make it.
The suspect is currently receiving treatment at the Police Hospital in Accra. And the police have started investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of Dormevenu.
But the outcome of the investigation would not be of much significance to Blessed, the widow, and their child.
As I headed for the newsroom, yesterday to file the story, the picture of the weeping woman went with me. The story went for the Middday News. It also made it onto our website and a few others websites picked it up. And that’s where it ended.
If it was the police who had killed suspect, the story might have gone further. The opinion of human rights activists would have been sought on the “insensitive shoot to kill” method adopted by the police. And their position would often be as predictable as the position of NDC and NPP serial callers to radio discussions. Condemnation.
But it is important keep the debate balanced. The lives of our police officers are equally as important as the lives of the armed robbers and criminals. Our officers get killed from time to time in their line of duty. Sometimes, they are not protected enough. They do not have the logistics to keep them out of harm’s way as they lurk dangerously in the heart of the night to protect us while we sleep and snore.
Our police officers are not immune to death. And the least we can do, as a people, is to fight for their welfare. It is true that some are corrupt and unprofessional. But even as we condemn those ones, we ought to look at the deplorable conditions in which the protectors of our lives and work, the tears of a murdered police officers widow is not a sight to behold.
The writer, Manasseh Azure Awuni, is a Senior Broadcast Journalist at Joy FM. The views expressed in this article are his own thoughts and do not reflect those of the station or myjoyonline.com.