19 October 2010: My Facebook status reads: Lesson for the week: Don’t EVER fuck with the Ghana Police! Don’t even tell the rude, arrogant, belligerent, racist detective that you find his behaviour offensive or you too will be thrown across the room and your husband charged and arrested!! This is Africa!
The memory of this day came flooding back to me this week and I can still vividly recall every single emotion. I can feel the fear coursing through my body, the complete lack of control I was experiencing and the unpredictability of what every second was bringing. Terrified doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Our day had started off pretty typically. I was pottering around home while Shanton was down at the house that we were building, overseeing the contractors. When he got there he discovered that our plumber wasn’t on the site, as he had been arrested and gaoled at the local police station. He was innocent and the police knew that, but it was a commonly used tactic to get the actual person they were looking for, his brother. His brother had been involved in an altercation with another man who had stabbed him, when the brother pushed back, the man fell hard on the ground, hitting his head and unfortunately died. He was now wanted for murder. The police were trying to get the brother to present himself at the police station, as obviously petrified, he had fled the scene.
We went to the police station to see if we could assist this kind, gentle boy who worked for us, as we felt it was incredibly unjust that he should be imprisoned, and by the time we got there, his brother was also behind bars. His brother was covered in very large stab wounds, which had not received any medical attention. We approached the detectives in charge of the case to see if we could discuss the situation. It is very hard to explain what happens in these police stations. In the detective’s office, a tiny room, no bigger than the average bedroom, with about 6 desks lined up each side, a person behind each one, and several people milling around each desk. No computers, no files, just randomly assigned detectives, actively seeking their next bribe.
We asked if we could speak with the Commander and were told he was out and that we should come back later. We asked for his number and were refused, but decided to wait for him to return. When he came back, we were escorted into his office and he began discussing the case with Shanton, but he asked that I leave the room. Unbeknownst to him, we were recording the whole encounter on Shanton’s phone. Once the door was closed, he insisted that Shanton pay him some kind of bribe so that our employee could be released. We managed to resolve it without paying, once he understood the situation and when Shanton came out, we began to exit the detective’s room. The lead detective, a total smartarse made some snide remark to me about who we thought we were, to be asking for the Commander’s number and a whole lot of other nonsense. I told him I thought that he was being very rude. We had a slightly heated exchange of words, before Shanton said to him “Don’t speak to my wife like that. Have you lost your senses?”
Next thing he stood up pushed his desk to the side and literally threw me across the room and I landed, hard on the concrete floor as he began to chase Shanton down and attack him. I couldn’t see what was happening as I was being helped up by a kind policewoman, who told me to keep quiet and very quietly apologised, so that nobody could hear her, but could hear the yelling and the detective swinging punches at Shanton.
He then demanded Shanton’s arrest and that he should be locked in the cells until further notice. These cells are absolutely tiny, and I mean tiny with standing room only and absolutely stink, as there are no provisions for hygiene for the men incarcerated there, mostly without charge. I was beyond hysterical at this stage. We were carted here and there, moved from room to room while I am wracked with sobs and unable to maintain my composure in any way. We ran away quickly as we could upstairs as we knew a detective up there, but he wasn’t able to help.
We were ordered to sit behind the front desk while they followed the process to arrest him. Each time the detective walked past he screamed at the whole station to put Shanton behind bars. Swinging his arms around his head in a grand gesture – ARREST HIM!! WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR! ARREST HIM! I was inconsolable. He then made a lot of disparaging remarks about being too big for ourselves, thinking we are better than everyone else, as we have lived abroad, who does Shanton think he is and on and on. In the meantime I was calling the Australian Embassy who kept insisting that I should leave immediately as they could not protect me and they were very concerned for my safety. I was not leaving without him. Shanton remained cool as a cucumber throughout this, apart from the fact that he was very upset about the fact that I had been assaulted. Oh and no mention of this by anyone either. The Station Commander came and gave me a stern telling off for the fact that Shanton had insulted the detective. What about me? What about my back? I was in pain, after being literally thrown across the room hard onto a concrete floor. No, nothing of that was mentioned and I never dared to bring it up.
Sitting on the bench that afternoon, I have honestly never been so afraid for my life. It should be the opposite, being in a police station and all, but in Ghana, no I was terrified. Officers prancing around swinging their rifles above their heads, laughing and obviously enjoying seeing a white woman distressed beyond measure.
After many hours, many threats, many meetings, none of which I was involved in, I was left sitting in the front of the station, and discussions, an agreement was reached. Shanton would write a statement of formal apology and we would be allowed to go home. Once we left, he called a friend who is involved with the police that night who came and took a statement, and for the right payment, we could initiate an investigation, but without money, nothing could possibly happen. An innocent woman assaulted and that’s absolutely fine by them. Wow. Just wow.
The family of the plumber that we assisted to get released came to show their gratitude and appreciation and were very upset by what had happened to us as they saw it all, and they didn’t have the words to express their thanks for having their family member released. Sadly the young man who pushed the other man back was still behind bars and I have no idea to this day what ever happened to him.
Next morning we had to report to the station again for Shanton to formally apologise and of course that apology involved a hefty payment of compensation to the insulted detective.
Words cannot express how grateful I am for having been born in Australia. We take for granted all of the human and legal rights that our amazing country affords us, and on that day in October 2010 I was reminded once again of how blessed we are.