The first law of ecology says that everything is connected to everything. This law is the first of the four ecological laws as outlined by Barry Commoner in his 1971 book The Closing Circle.
Ecology is described by Farnam Street as the study of relationships and processes linking living things to the physical and chemical environment.
It can also be seen, simply, as the relation of the different elements that make up a complex system.
In view of the recent dissolution of the Special Anti Robbery Squad by the IG of police, the first law of ecology tells us that in a complex system, like the Nigeria society, the dissolution is connected to other things.
Yes, the disbandment will help curb police brutality, but that won’t be all, as there is also a likelihood of it resulting in an increase in insecurity, which may in the long run cancel out the calm, peace, and needless loss of lives we are going to get as an effect now.
A friend, upon hearing that SARS has been disbanded reluctantly told me that the government should better come up with another security outfit, because it is SARS that terrifies these bad boys.
True to that, we can all agree that SARS wasn’t created to kill innocent Nigerians, rather it was created as a special outfit of the Nigeria Police Force, which is currently wallowing in a state of utter ineffectiveness, to better combat crime and criminality.
SARS has since its creation become reputable for tactical assaults against criminal elements, creating a kind of fear of criminals which the NPF, due to its numerous inefficiencies, has been unable to create. Only, in this process, we see the emergence of an evil we never envisaged —a SARS which in the process of doing its job went too far, and became a threat to, in addition to criminals, the lives of innocent citizens.
Note, the emergence of a brutal SARS is a second-order outcome of the creation of a police unit whose first-order effect is to fight crime well enough; and this goes to show that too often we are more likely to not consider the second-order effect of our actions. In a complex system where everything is connected to everything, our actions will have immediate consequences, but things won’t stop there, as the immediate consequences will escalate into other, second-order, consequences which are not always visible to us from the point of our actions.
By disbanding SARS, we shouldn’t forget that there is likely going to be a second-order consequence which, as I have stated earlier, is the likelihood of increased insecurity, which may in the long run cancel out the positive, present effect we got from disbandment.
Another critical thing we can take away from the first law of ecology is that, as a result of the interconnection of things, a single action may not always be enough to fix a problem in a complex system; and to this end I’ll like to say that just disbanding SARS is not enough.
Yes, the IGP had on Sunday outlined further steps the force will be taking following the disbandment. Among the things outlined is that all SARS employees are to be redeployed immediately; that is, fix them into other sections of the NPF.
The disbandment is an important first move, but redeploying these guys, I’m not sure. It begs the question of what the real problem is, is it SARS officers, or is it the system.
If the officers are the problem, there is no guarantee they won’t go rogue even as they work in other wings of the NPF. Redeploying them shows we don’t think they’re the problem, so we are left with if the system is the problem.
If the system is the problem, we still have to be fearful of the creation of another police unit to combat crime and criminality, a move included among the next moves of the police after the disbandment.
We have to make sure we don’t disband SARS and still create another SARS.
It is a faulty system that created a faulty police unit like SARS, but if we don’t fix the system, there is a likelihood it will continue creating a faulty police unit.
Consequently, other moves should follow disbanding SARS. The first is to ensure crime doesn’t increase; and the second, if we are going to create another police unit, we should do it in such a way that we don’t create, from a faulty system, a faulty police unit.
At the end, a total reform of the NPF (the system) is what will ensure we effectively deal with police brutality, and still be able to fight insecurity.