Saturday, January 23, 2021

“Suspects have to be prosecuted and not persecuted”

Week in, week out we are inundated with reports of Police brutality on criminal suspects. In some cases, people have been tortured and released without any charges laid against them.

As a citizen, I am very disturbed by these reports and as such, I do not only expect, but rightfully demand action from the Police top brass.
The Police Commissioner has to tell his officers that they are not above the law, which says a suspect is innocent until proven guilty by the courts of law.

It would appear the word suspect is so complicated for the police cadre to comprehend. These scary phenomena must be nipped on the bud forthwith. They have no place in a democratic setup like ours.

If police officers think their fatal torture on suspects provides some sort of amusement to the society, they must be told to stop their game for it is not funny. I don’t understand why Mogoditshane police station wants to stand out as notorious of all the police stations in the country.
I don’t know if the rampant torture on suspects is carried out by officers stationed at Mogoditshane or Mogoditshane police station has been declared a torture chamber which can be used even by other police officers from other stations. If Mogoditshane is our Guantanamo Bay, then the Station Commander at Mogoditshane has to be worried because his station is attracting a very negative and undesirable status.

Of all the tortures reported in the country, Mogoditshane police station takes the crown for the most barbaric. Are they saying Mogoditshane has the most notorious criminals in the country? Even though I am a victim of Mogoditshane crime (they robbed me of a phone), I do not think criminals in that place should be given any different treatment from other criminals outside Mogoditshane.

I do not like criminals a bit. In fact, if I were to re-draft the Penal Code most of them would be in prison for life. The only reason I argue against their ill-treatment is: the Constitution of our country doesn’t allow such treatment on suspects.

Anyone, including the Police Commissioner, can be a suspect in a case before the police at some point but it would not mean they are guilty. The police’s role is to arrest and investigate. The verdict of the case rests with the Courts of Law.

The police are allowed to apply reasonable force on their suspects when there is need for such and I expect them to know how much force is reasonable. They are trained on these things and they have brains to apply discretionary restraint when dealing with suspects. After all, police officers are human beings too and as such I expect them to know how much pain the human body can endure without the risk of death or permanent disability. For the police to fatally torture a suspect is totally unacceptable.

The laws of Botswana, which the police must abide by, do not grant anyone the right to mete out punishment on anyone, even if you catch them red-handed in criminal acts.

No matter how convinced the police may be that they have their wanted criminal, they have to treat their catch as suspects until proven otherwise by the courts of law.

We don’t practice Sharia laws in our country where people get stoned or lashed by the public for non-criminal acts such as women wearing trousers. I am informed police officers have been given targets on how many criminals to apprehend. Even at the traffic department they have targets and perhaps this explains why most of us have been booked for driving through amber (yellow) lights, which is not an offence.

The unprofessional behaviour of some elements within the police service must be condemned in the strongest terms possible because it has the potential to soil all the good things that a lot of hard working officers have brought in the police fraternity. The Police Commissioner must sternly warn his officers to desist from their bully behaviour. They should observe all legal procedures when dealing with suspects and should avoid being emotionally attached to cases they investigate as that has the potential to derail them from laid down protocols and principles expected of them. In all honesty, the police are not the only ones responsible for these tortures as we now have a lot of law enforcement agencies in our country.

In their quest to prove their relevance, law enforcement agencies are tripping over themselves in pursuit of suspects. Some of the newly established agencies find themselves pursuing trivial, personally motivated cases just to stamp their authority and, in the process, take no regard to people’s civil liberties.

I may also urge our Justice department to be strict and careful when they grant bail to suspects. This might be viewed lightly but if looked at carefully, it has the potential to fuel this cruel behaviour from the police officers. Our police officers work so hard to apprehend criminals only to be let free by the courts of law. The police must be getting annoyed for having to run after, in many cases, the same criminals. It has been revealed that most of the people who would have been granted bail end up committing other crimes.

It is for this reason that I think the courts must ensure that stringent measures are applied when some of these suspects are granted bail. That however, cannot be a justification for the police to try and eliminate criminals by torturing them, killing them and faking suicides. If there is one organization that can not risk losing public trust it is the police.

Police officers should not arrest to reach targets but rather to serve and protect the society where and when such a need arises. The excitement of torture must be stopped for it doesn’t bode well in the credentials of our law enforcement officers. Let us avoid a situation where criminals will be forced to retaliate for their apprehensions and subsequent torture from the police personnel.

A notorious Police force can only attract notorious and vengeful criminals. I understand the officers’ disappointment with the Justice System at times but unless and until the laws are changed, suspects should be treated just as that, suspects. If the junior officers are carrying out these unwarranted tortures with orders from their seniors, they better be advised to refuse to carry out such heinous acts because, in the long run, they will be solely answerable. I can only hope the case of Kalafatis will be dealt with accordingly because it will definitely provide answers as to who is behind these tortures and killings of suspects before they can be tried in the courts of law. We really need to know who orders these punishments.

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