Saturday, October 31, 2020

Botswana Police losing public trust

The Botswana Police Service is moving close to a tipping point — the point at which the public loses faith in the force’s integrity and its ability to protect the streets and the people who walk them ÔÇô the latest Ombudsman’s report has revealed.

Trust in police officers has hit a worrying low and a growing number of Batswana believe the men in uniform have moved from enforcing the law to violating and being above it.

The Ombudsman’s report has revealed that the public protector has been receiving more complaints against the Botswana Police Service than any public service institution.

The 2011 annual report shows that the Ombudsman offices in Francistown and Gaborone recorded 67 complaints against the police service which was by far the highest number of complaints recorded against any government department. Indications are that the number could be much higher ÔÇô fortunately for the police service, the Ombudsman is barred by law from investigations against the police issues or actions taken for the purpose of investigating crime.

In what suggests concern at the growing caseload of complaints against the police, former Ombudsman, Ofentse Lepodise, dedicated a whole page in the report making out a case for an independent Police Complaints Authority.

“This office continuously receives complaints against the police. It is necessary to mention to mention immediately that Section 4b of the Ombudsman Act precludes the Ombudsman from investigating matters or action taken for the purpose of investigating crime.”

Among cases investigated by the Ombudsman against the police service were “allegations of failure to return property seized from detainees upon arrest; alleged failure to investigate complaints of assault lodged by detainees; Alleged lack of feedback on the results of investigations into cases reported to the police, (and) there are many of these.”

The Ombudsmen reports that, “we have always had to investigate these cases, through the police authorities involved, naturally. In the conduct of our investigations, we have invariably had to rely on the police themselves to give information to us to make necessary determinations.

The Ombudsman says, “the result of this is that members of the public view our method of
investigation as being inadequate, and tainted with lack of objectivity. Perhaps rightly so.

Unfortunately we do not have the necessary resources for independent verification. In other jurisdictions, there are established authorities, independent of the police which investigate complaints against the organization.”

The Ombudsman said at the time of writing the report he made inquiries with the Commissioner of Police who assured him that they had already started studying what is being done in other jurisdictions.

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