By Mahao Mahao
The recent much publicised spate of torture and killing of crime suspects at the hands of Lesotho’s police service (who behave more like a police force than a service) has reached a point where it has ceased to be funny in case those committing these senseless atrocities thought there was a funny side to this madness.
Not only does it make citizens wonder what is going on in this country but also begs a genuine public explanation of exactly what goes on at the Police Training College from the point of recruitment to the passing-out ceremony.
While it may only be a small percentage of these torture-happy fellows in the police service, the few rotten apples have the potential to turn public confidence in our police to one of its lowest points since independence; and the entire police force must get worried.
I cannot genuinely contemplate a situation where citizens’ trust in the police turns to deep hatred and the men and women in blue walk the streets knowing they have become the public’s number one enemy.
There is a striking resemblance between the aftermath of their actions and those of rapists.
Statistics can probably prove that very few men rape but the heinous deeds of those few violators of humanity have put paid to the positive view that women had of men in general.
Some women probably even get worried when they leave their kids in the care of their own father; constantly wondering if he will not rise against them in her absence and instantly turn from a loving protective father to a devilish monster who suddenly develops feelings for his own offspring.
Even the good cops are now viewed with suspicion and doubts by the general public.
They have a huge task in their hands to restore the badly eroded public trust in them.
In countries with a professionally trained police service, citizens know that a slogan such as ours of “police: helper and friend” means exactly that.
They have hundred percent confidence that their police will not let them down; that they can trust them to solve even seemingly the most intricate of crimes without any suspect shedding a single drop of blood from needless torture.
Their interrogation and investigative skills and professionalism are so honed that they have no cause to resort to persecution to get the information they are looking for.
Not in this Mountain Kingdom.
Our police have constantly displayed ineptitude of the highest level.
They could easily win a trophy against other police services for a superb display of shoddiness when it matters most.
They can turn a minor issue into a major crisis with their inept handling of cases, and the public is fast running out of patience.
We simply cannot call ourselves a democracy of world standards with this type of conduct.
The deeds of our police belong to the dark ages; the era when man was still evolving for those who subscribe to the theory of evolution.
Their actions are utterly unacceptable and no right-thinking citizen must accept this.
They must demonstrate that they are different from night watchmen with zero training.
We are, no doubt, all fed up with crime and want to live in neighbourhoods which give us absolute peace of mind day and night; and we appreciate that our police are trying their best to stamp out crime and lawlessness for the sake of us all and the much-needed tourists to our scenic landscape.
But I am not sure this is the way to go about it.
In this context one may even suggest changing the name Police Training College to Police Training Camp.
No college in the world can be proud to be associated with this type of brutality.
A college trains professionals and no one can deny there is hardly anything professional about the behaviour of our police in the many publicised incidents of torture and killing.
Our police must prove that the time they spend training can transform them into public protectors instead of public persecutors.
The admission by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane that his government inherited “a dysfunctional” police service is a good point of reference and shows there is concern even in the office the nation depends on for sound direction.
No police service in the world can hope to fulfil its mandate without top professionals in its ranks.
We cannot just depend on men and women who go through a few months of physical exercise and lectures on a few basics.
The police should be a hub of some of the most intelligent minds in the country and must teem with highly trained professionals in fields such as law, criminology and criminal justice, psychology, ethics, human rights and forensics.
Many of these disciplines actually require years of study, not weeks or months, hence we need to invest heavily in training if our police service is to reach the levels of professionalism and competence we are looking for.
The era where police extracted information from suspects through the butt of the gun has long come to an end.
These appalling actions should propel all citizens of this country, using every available media, to make as much noise as they can against unprofessional police behaviour. This article is my own kind of noise.
- Mahao Mahao is a lecturer in the Faculty of Education at the National University of Lesotho