Tanzania’s Constitution sanctions the country to be a democratic and, therefore, a civilian country. In a democratic/civilian society, it is the executive arm of government that is responsible for enforcing the law.
The police service as part of the executive arm of government is tasked with keeping internal security and peace, ensuring public order, safety and compliance of the law.
The police service cannot achieve these set goals without public cooperation, support and above all partnership. The public holds a duty of giving the police the necessary support in the discharge of their duty since this is the only way the service can ensure an enabling and peaceful environment for the public to go about their daily transactions without fear of intimidation.
However, these cannot be achieved if the police service is its own enemy, causing nemesis for itself. The attitude of some of our police personnel breeds mistrust, anger, apathy and sheer insult between the police service and the public. The effect is that it becomes difficult for the police to carry out any credible investigation since the public is not ready to volunteer any information to help the police.
This is a vital part of all investigations and if the public shows apathy and indignation there is not much the police can do to efficiently investigate crimes. In the UK police appeals for information in an incident receives many telephone calls as a result of the trust between the police and the public, but the converse is true in Tanzania.
The mistrust stems from the police giving out the identities of informants and taking bribes from the accused persons; thus treating prosecution witnesses with contempt. The public therefore does not find it a constitutional duty to support the law enforcement agency in their duties.
An average Tanzanian policeman or woman is incredibly arrogant and a bully. They bully the very tax-payer whose sweat is used to provide their uniform, salaries, accommodation and the weapons they use.
Paradoxically, these are the same equipment used to intimidate, bully and batter civilians. The mere sight of a police officer sends shivers down your spine. If you don’t remember that bully beast in your schooling days, police personnel in uniform reminds you of him/her. They are a law unto themselves; they are above reproach and above the law of the land.
The complicity with which the police service operates is mind-boggling. They cover up their wrong deeds expertly assisted by the law courts which will not support a civilian taking legal action against them.
Suffice it to say that not all but some police personnel are unprofessional, semi-illiterates, semi-trained and above all criminals. If they are properly trained, the public will be their partners but not objects for bullying. They will scorn bribe taking, twisting of facts and harassing commercial drivers and other road users.
All commercial drivers set aside some amount of money which they call ‘road money’ for the police. These drivers may be blamed for abatement of immoral practice but the complex operations of the police and the courts makes it better if these drivers pay money to enable them continue their journeys or business.
The same cannot be said of the police service which has legitimised bad conduct and encouraging extortion on an institutional basis. If indeed the police service wants Tanzanians to take it seriously and to see it as a partner it must shed this bad image and reinvent itself.
Terrorising civilians is not part of the police mandate and if this is not a human rights abuse, I don’t know what else is. Human rights campaigners and politicians should be part of the crusade against police brutalities against civilians.
The police administration must, as a matter of urgency, take steps to conduct in-service training and also weed out the rotten nuts. Any brute force on the part of the police is an assault and criminal. If there is a civil disobedience of the police it can lead to a breakdown of law and order creating a chaotic situation for Tanzanians.
There is a call for an improved remuneration and better conditions of service for the force but that will not impact greatly on the attitude of the personnel of the service since most of them have the wrong assumption that they hold the power to life.
As a matter of fact some police officers do not know or understand the laws of the land and other international treaties and conventions. The lack of such knowledge is partly the reasons why the police believe they wield powers more than civilians.
A professional police will be well mannered, respectful, polite, neatly and properly dressed. This reminds me of the dress code of the police service. The psychological impact of smart and gentle dressing is much revealing. It is ridiculous to see our police officers in black uniforms in a tropical scorching sun sweating profusely which inadvertently stirs the anger hormones in their system.
Tanzanians can stop police terrorism against them with a massive civil protest and legal actions against police personnel and the police administration. Human rights organisations and organised groups should register their disapproval of police conduct and our media must also help in this regard.
We need the police service as much as they need us. A humble police service is better off than an arrogant and vindictive one. The lies, twisting of facts and criminal complicity by some members of the service must cease forthwith.
SOURCE: THE GUARDIAN