Sunday, April 5, 2020

Police Commissioner Tsimako should prove his mettle

The nation is still reeling with shock from news that a young woman who had run for safety into a police station in Francistown was stabbed to death in the full glare of officers who could not help her.

The story is still unfolding and the facts are not yet clear.
What is worth noting is that the Botswana Police Service has not been helpful in as far as allaying the public concerns on the fast encroaching fears that our supposed custodians of our safety and security actually attach very little premium to human life.

Botswana Police Service Public Relations Officer, Senior Superintendent Chris Mbulawa, has been speaking in forked tongues on this issue, bringing about suspicions that either the Police are trying to cover up or are not awake to the gravity of the allegations, and are unaware of the potential they have to dent public trust in the Police Service, whatever explanation they might give.
We have in the past commended the Botswana Police service for maintaining high standards of professionalism in the face of almost insurmountable difficulties that include a poor resource base, bad working conditions and low pay.

But here the clich├® of poor resources does not hold.

We used to think that a police station was one of the safest areas in all of the land.

We still want to believe that is true.
But the recent allegations of possible negligence by the officers are damning.
While we draw some solace from the recent reports that Police Commissioner Thebeyame Tsimako is taking a rather personal interest in these allegations, we want to remind the Police Service of the inherent dangers of going back to the days when the public had very little confidence in the service.

As we have said before in our editorials, Botswana Police deserve credit for having successfully turned the tide of public distrust away from themselves.

Having succeeded in winning the public trust and faith, it is very important for the Police to value and prize that public faith.

Under no circumstances should an impression be created among the public that the Police are taking their faith for granted.

It is a product of hard, tedious and costly but worthwhile work started by former Police Commissioner Norman Moleboge and continued by Edwin Batshu, two men who insisted that it was only proper for the officers to look and treat the public who thronged their offices asking for assistance as clients.

The two men were also resolute in their emphasis that Botswana Police image had to change from that of a brutal semi military force into a community service, friendly and responsive to the people they served.

That strategy, we must point out, was beginning to bear fruit, but it stands to be unraveled by new allegations which, we are sorry to say, the Service does not appear to give them the seriousness they deserve.

More than anyone else in the country, Botswana Police Service knows the damage caused the country by the spate of suicide and killings that have been gripping this country for a number of years.

When a person runs to the safety of the police station to report that their lives could be in possible danger as somebody is threatening them, the police should be serious and prompt in how they respond to those fears.

While we know and urge the importance of the investigation into these new allegations of Police negligence being held and conducted dispassionately, it is also important that an image of urgency is created.

At the moment the Police have not only come forward as defensive but also casual in how this whole saga is being handled.

Botswana is still under the grip of these senseless murders and suicides. Botswana Police professionalism will be a key ingredient in turning the tide.
It is one thing to complain of being poorly resourced and quite another to have a young soul mercilessly taken in front of police officers at a police station where it would have sought refuge.

Once again, we urge Police Commissioner Tsimako to rise to the occasion and prove to the nation that he is, as we said when he was appointed, the right man to lead this exceedingly important department of government.

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