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The Nigerian Police Force

 IN the past few years, the definition of the role of the Police has changed considerably. Following the trends initiated by the private sector, and recently embraced by the public sector, Police departments should begin to focus their attention increasingly on their customers (the community). The Police need to know that community members are a critical resource essential to the successful performance of Police duties.

Developing a strong and positive relationship between the Police and the community is a paramount in the Police’️s effort to combat crime. Involvement of communities can be done through building trust and confidence in the Police.

While understanding of the importance of the relationship is not a new development to the Police, it is only in recent times that the Police have begun to question the ramifications of this role for the behaviour of individual and police staff.

The role of the Police

Historically and in recent times, the Police typically focused on the protection of life and property, crime prevention, the detection of offenders, and the preservation of peace and order.
These roles encompass; law enforcement (the use of power to control others); peace keeping (maintaining public safety); and service provision. However, the media has tended to focus on law enforcement at the cost of peacekeeping and service delivery, despite the fact that most calls to Police are for help, to settle disputes, or to quell disturbances.

In general, public expectations of service quality have increased in recent times. Consequently, the community has come to expect a reasonable standard of service from both the private and the Government sectors, with the result that the Police and other government bodies are being forced to reassess their methods of service delivery.

What is customer service?

An understanding of what constitutes good customer service is essential if the Police agencies are to meet the increasing demands of the public. Wagenhiem and Reurint (1991) defined customer care as a service management strategy that focuses on meeting customer expectations and ensuring customer satisfaction, thereby facilitating organisational goals.
Police departments worldwide have begun to adopt the principles and practices of customer care service that are common to private enterprises and that is what we want of the Ugandan Police.

Efforts are in place to improve the public perception of the Police. Based on research done by the Association of Chief Police Officers in the UK, addressing the needs of the public will be our major point of focus.
What does the public expect from the Police? The first step in developing a strong bond between Police and the community requires the Police to obtain an understanding of what the public expects from them.
Recent surveys measuring community attitudes have revealed a generally negative perception of the Police efforts at law enforcement and a lot of concern has been expressed about the arrogance of some Police when dealing with the public.

This suggests that service delivery should be a major focus in attempts of improving the Police performance. The following are some of the public’️s expectations from the police in terms of customer care;

  • Greeting
  • Smiling at and talking with customers (the public)
  • Maintaining eye contact and affluent speech were good indicators of friendliness.
  • Expression of concern.
  • Offering additional assistance and holding small talk with customers

The above can only be achieved through behaviour modification in the Police force. Behaviour modification seeks to eliminate unwanted behaviours and create acceptable new responses to job demands. Therefore officers and staff are expected to be courteous and calm at all times, including when provoked or under pressure.

Officers are expected to explain their decisions when asked to do so. Do not arrest anybody without explaining why he/she is wanted by the Police. Though it is not given that all needs can be met, where possible, the public expect officers and staff to provide advice where appropriate and if possible, provide details and names of agencies that might help them in their individual cases.

The public expects to be served at least within five minutes of entering the Police station and offered assistance by either being offered a seat or reassured that they will be attended to in due course.

Officers and staff will ensure that victims and witnesses in cases for which they are responsible are regularly updated and know how to contact them for more information.

Professionalism

All officers and staff are expected to project a professional image through their conduct, appearance and attitude. This is because every employee of the Police force is an ambassador for the force and every interaction with the public offers the chance to enhance reputation.

The adoption of a customer service focus by the Police has the potential to change the job of the Police officer as well as the community’️s attitude.
A good customer service will create a pleasant working environment, reduce frequency of complaints related to incivility, increase job satisfication and improve morale.

The community should also benefit from the development of a positive bond with the Police. A strong paterneship between the Police and the community will assist in implementing a community policing strategy.

It will help reduce crime, public fear, and encourage public cooperation with the Police. But this will only occur when the community has confidence in their dealings with the Police, allowing them to share the responsibility for both crime prevention and detection.

The current trend worldwide now is community policing where the community is actively involved in crime reporting and prevention. This is because the Police has shifted from a focus of reactive, to incident-oriented policing to proactive, community policing.

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