Attorney General Kalekeni Kamphale dropped the bombshell that police brutality and human rights abuses account for 30% of cases reported to his office. As a result, government pays huge compensation to the victims. Police chief Lexten Kachama has warned that the police would take stern action against police officers who take the law into their own hands.
Complaints about police battery, arresting people without justifiable cause, murder, harassment and corruption etc have been there for some time. Additionally, the police have been involved in other criminal activities such as armed robbery. There are also reports that the police are used by some powerful people to eliminate people who stand their way. As if this not enough damaging record, the police are also accused of unprofessional behaviour such as failure to arrest people connected to politicians or arresting people “on orders from above”.
Because of widespread police brutality and violation of human rights, and other unprofessional conduct, many Malawians have little faith in the police. This unfortunate scenario has continued because government structures have tolerated bad behaviour among police officers for too long. It also symbolizes lack of effective leadership in government institutions. One may ask: what action has the Attorney General’s office or the IG’s office taken against police officers who abuse people’s rights?
It is high time errant police officers are personally held accountable for their actions because they are act outside the ambit of the law. If they make a bed, they must lie on it. Just warming them is not enough. Unless this happens, police officers will continue to abuse people’s rights because they know no one will hold them accountable. And so, a cycle of abuses will continue. The deviant behaviour of a few police officers should not be allowed to tarnish the image of the entire police service.
A few months ago, police officers abused Chancellor College students during the demonstration against fee hike. The Inspector General promised to investigate the issue. Whether he took action or not against the police officers no one knows, barring the fact that the Malawi Law Society has sued the police officers on behalf of the students. But it would not be surprising to learn that no action has been taken against them.
The police service is notorious for defending its own officers even if they are wrong. This is a major disease across government institutions. Individuals involved in wrongdoing are posted to other centres or ministries or departments instead of taking disciplinary action against them.
The ball is in the court of the IG to ensure that he puts a stop to these human rights abuses. Police officers who abuse people’s right are a misfit and do not deserve to be in the police service. Action should be taken against them including dismissing them from the service. He should make this message clear and live by it. If he continues to warn them but does not take action, the public will interpret that he is a weak. He needs to show leadership.Follow and Subscribe Nyasa TV :