BY TUNDE OPESEITAN
The redeployment of Olatunji Disu, Deputy Commissioner of Police in charge of the Rapid Response Squad (RRS) of Lagos State Police Command, came to me as a rude shock. A rude shock because I have closely followed his activities as Commander of the RRS since he was first appointed to lead the security outfit on June 13, 2015 during the tenure of former Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, and they have been nothing but exceptional policing with human face.
His redeployment, coming on the heels of the aftermath of EndSARS Protests, left me pondering on the rationale behind such move at this critical point in time in our trajectory as a state and country, especially when juxtaposed with how Disu reformed, rebranded and repositioned RRS as the model security outfit not only in Nigeria but across Africa.
Disu’s first stint at the RRS came to an end on April 10, 2019 after he was elevated to the rank of Deputy Commissioner of Police from Assistant Commissioner of Police. He was reappointed a day after on April 11, 2019 to continue his amazingly brilliant job.
Before coming on board in RRS, Disu had previously served as the Aide-De-Camp to the former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is now the National Leader of All Progressives Congress (APC).
Afterwards, Disu was redeployed to the Ogun State Police Command to serve as the Divisional Police Officer (DPO) in charge of Ago-Iwoye, where he performed excellently well in areas of fighting all sorts of criminal activities, including cultism.
He subsequently led the Nigeria Police contingent on African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) to quell the crisis in the war-torn Darfur in 2005, where he equally discharged his duties with commendable passion and professionalism that brought honour and glory to Nigeria.
The feats in Darfur earned Disu instant recognition and he was named the Officer-in-Charge of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), Ondo State Police Command, and later Officer-in-Charge of the SARS in Oyo and Rivers States Police Headquarters, respectively.
Next, Disu was elevated to the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) in charge of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID), Rivers State Police Command, a position he held until he was transferred to Lagos to serve as RRS Commander.
RRS is a special security outfit founded and funded by the Lagos State Government and it was created to serve as the metropolitan police to maintain law and order within the metropolis, as well as the nooks and crannies of the state.
Soon after settling in as RRS Commander, Disu brought his professionalism to bear on the modus operandi of the formation, starting with rebranding of RRS in which the officers were now known as #TheGoodGuys.
Calling the RRS officers the good guys was a mindset strategy to re-orientate them and make them come to terms with the fact that they occupy sensitive public position, and that they have to behave responsibly and strictly adhere to the basic tenets of policing which is protection of lives and property.
Disu’s model of policing is predicated on the principle of ‘Policing by Consent’ with emphasis on 4Es of Engaging, Educating, Explaining and Enforcing the law. Essentially, the principle is about engaging the people, educating the people, explaining to the people, and then enforcing the law to maintain law and order. This concept of policing is what is practiced in advanced countries, and it is a concept that helps to endear the police to the people.
Recognizing the importance of changing the mindset of the officers about what an ideal policing should be, Disu led a pragmatic and revolutionary movement that brought about the training of officers of the RRS on Emotional Intelligence, Anger Control and Management and De-escalation of crisis.
Considering the fact that RRS officers are usually the first responders during emergencies, the officers were equally trained on First Aid and CPR, and so during emergencies, RRS officers would administer First aid treatment and stop victims from bleeding, which usually greatly help to save lives.
The officers get rewarded for every good work and good deeds, and by so doing, others are spurred to also put in their best, thereby setting up the officers for healthy competition for good works. In rewarding the officers, Disu put in place a system where they get both monetary rewards and certificates.
For instance, during the Covid-19 lockdown, RRS officers took a woman in labour from house in Ikoyi to the hospital after her husband was seen on the road in the wee hours of the morning in distress and desperately looking for help. Upon enquiry, the man impatiently blurted out that his wife was in labour and that he had been looking for vehicle to no avail. The officers swiftly got the man into their patrol vehicle, drove to his residence and subsequently took the woman in question to a hospital in Obalende where she eventually delivered a baby girl. The affected officers were handsomely rewarded by Disu.
Another unique initiative is that Disu would always talk to the officers every morning before they are set for the business of the day. At such meetings, the task for the day is clearly spelt out, while their dressings and outlook are properly checked before they are deployed for the day’s job.
This is why it is difficult to see RRS officers misbehaving on the road, and on rare occasions where members of the public have had to lodge complaints about activities of RRS officers, such complaints are taken seriously with affected officers appropriately sanctioned where and when necessary to send clear message that such acts are not condoned. The sanctions are also communicated to the complainants.
A tech-savvy and brilliant officer, Disu also makes good use of technology to enhance the security architecture of Lagos, as well as social media through which members of the public are regularly updated on activities of RRS. The RRS also gets feedback from both traditional and new media platforms.
In terms of the real police operational work, RRS under Disu operated what is called ‘Hot spot Policing’ through which the patrol vehicles of RRS are placed at strategic locations considered to be black spot, so that the area will cease to be a dangerous area and by the time the area is no longer a black spot, the police will move to other areas considered to be dangerous, not forgetting to check on the previous black spots once in a while. This is why at times, people will see increased presence of RRS patrol vehicles in a particular area, and afterwards, they move to other areas.
In terms of welfare, Disu is known to be a humanist to the core who does not joke with the welfare of RRS officers, and even people around him, including journalists. He created a Welfare Team that regularly visits RRS officers who are injured or ill either in the line of duty or through any other means.
During such visits, aside the fact that RRS bears the cost of treatment, tokens are also presented to such officers from the Commander, while they are assured of the outfit’s love for them. By that, the affected officer feels loved and earnestly look forward to return to work.
Disu also operated an open-door-policy in which any officer can walk up to his office and discourse any issue with him. Through that, he gets firsthand information and do the needful where and when necessary. Members of the public also have unhindered access to Disu and can freely approach him without let or hindrance.
On the job, he is such a prolific officer with hands-on approach to policing, and he personally leads most of the operations of the outfit. Call him anytime, he will respond and act appropriately. He is a brilliant, dutiful and dogged police operational officer.
Every Monday morning throughout Disu’s tenure as RRS Commander, officers and members of the Secretariat community where the headquarters of RRS is located are treated to a light breakfast of tea, biscuit and bread. It has become a regular thing through which officers and civil servants line up to take their breakfast courtesy of the Commander.
Another unique programme introduced by Disu is what is called “RRS Courtesy Vehicle.” This particular vehicle moves around areas where the presence of RRS is considered not to be too felt, and so people will just wake up to see RRS men in their community. The officers will meet with important people including the monarchs, community leaders and even petty traders to extend the greetings of Commander, and find out what the RRS can do to intervene in any security issue they might be having.
Besides, one of the legacies of Disu in RRS is the provision of fuel to help motorists who run out of fuel on the road. The idea is that in every RRS patrol vehicle, some litres of fuel are reserved in the event that there is a vehicle that runs out of fuel on the road. The motorist is then given a few litres to get home or to the nearest gas station to top-up. In the event that the vehicle that breaks down on the road needs the intervention of a mechanic, the RRS officers assist such motorists to call mechanic or any other assistance as may be required, without requesting and collecting a dime.
For Disu, doing so is also another way of assisting the police by freeing up the road and avoiding encumbrances that may bring about another threat to safety of lives and property, especially traffic robbers who would like to take advantage of traffic build-up to carry out their nefarious activities.
During the Endsars protests, RRS Ambulance was released for the treatment of injured protesters and those who needed one form of medical attention or the other. Disu’s ideology is that the people come first and part of the benefits is that the people now see RRS as their police. RRS under Disu was seen as the people’s police.
As we speak, people now freely give information to the RRS, having the confidence that they will not be hounded and that their identities would not only be protected but that the information will be swiftly acted on.
Still on Endsars protests, RRS under Disu came out as the perfect example of compassionate, professional and effective tactical police formation that SARS should have emulated. According to keen watchers and security analysts, the protests would have never been had SARS operated like Disu’s RRS across the country. When RRS officers were attacked during the protests, the youths came out to apologize to RRS.
Disu cracked and led many successful operations. For instance, many did not know that it was Disu that did the major work in the celebrated operation that led to the arrest of Evans, the billionaire kidnapper at his Magodo residence in Lagos.
Another major case that proved Disu to be a super cop and a brilliant officer was when a major iphone store was burgled in South Africa. Days later, intelligence report indicated that the iphones had been moved to Computer Village in Ikeja, Lagos. Disu was contacted to handle the sensitive investigation, and he swiftly swung into action. The iphones were recovered in a major operation and handed over to the owners to the incredulity of South African authorities.
When an attempt was recently made to blackmail popular musician, Queen Salawa Abeni with her nude pictures, the mastermind in the case was picked up by RRS Decoy Team days later. I can go on with plethora of cases brilliantly handled by RRS under Disu. Several civil unrest and communal clashes were also quelled by RRS during the period under review.
As a result of Disu’s exploits, Lagos State in 2016 was named the best security and most safety conscious state in Africa by the Security Watch Africa (SWA). At the end of the awards ceremony held in Johannesburg, South Africa, RRS emerged as the best anti-crime police squad in West Africa, while Disu was named as the most outstanding police operational officer in West Africa.
With RRS and other previous postings, Disu has no doubt left an indelible imprint in the sands of time and I can only wish him sound health, wisdom and understanding, and above all, more years of
meritorious service to humanity. I know his redeployment to the Operations Department of Force Headquarters, Abuja will usher in bigger, better and brighter responsibilities.
Opeseitan is a Lagos-based Journalist.