A COUNTRY has a problem when its police force is a regular with the Press. By country I mean its people, the public who make up the republic because their actions are the ones that make the police force. Whichever way you look at it, a police force is only as good as its ordinary citizens.
By Sonny Jermain
When we cry about how the police do this and that, it is because a good number of our people are misbehaving with unconscious criminal intent. Would-be criminals are not even aware of their intentions and yet nobody wants to go to jail!
Everyone has a brush with a police station at some point or another in life and if you’ve had one, you should have seen that it can get really busy there with unsuspecting me’s and you’s being shipped in as offenders for all sorts of crimes. Some people have bloody intent and we have to appreciate that the police deal with a lot of overwhelming crap!
Zimbabweans are notorious for bad driving for example. How many of our people drive without licences? How many more drive with under-the-counter purchased licences?
What of those that drive under the influence of alcohol?
Our police keep finding themselves in the halls of our court systems for their mistreatment of people in carrying out their duties. Lest we forget, the police human resources office picks its staff right from the street! Which other career in the world do we know where six months is all it takes to become a professional?
Our young people nowadays join the force en masse because of a guaranteed salary without occupational consideration. That is a fundamental flaw of the recruitment process of the police because it takes very little time to be on the payroll. You should hear the conversations of my peers when they are contemplating joining the police.
When we talk about constitutional and human rights, some of the cops have no clue whatsoever. Negotiating with the police becomes a difficult thing because of a situation where some of the cops are oblivious of the laws they are meant to enforce. Equally, when the people are ignorant of the laws that they should be observing, it makes police work a difficult job.
That is why we read about ill-treatment of suspects, harassment of sex workers, traffic scams and so on. It’s not even a Zimbabwean thing. Pick any country where the police are always butting heads with people. The United States, with an over 200-year-old Constitution, sees its police departments struggling to treat minority people fairly. Then again there must be something that the minorities are refusing to learn — the law!
Western Europeans — I mean whites — are some of the most well-behaved people in their countries where prostitution, public drinking and recreational use of marijuana are all legal. They can handle their intoxication. Put desperate immigrants in that mix . . . If you are well-behaved as an individual, you will find that for the most part, the police actually do a good job.
The behaviour of a police force is a true reflection of the citizens in that country. Clueless people make a clueless police force.
Now that Zimbabweans under arrest have a right to remain silent, among other new rights, we can only embrace the new Constitution which 94,5% voted yes for. I guess we are not that clueless.
The funniest thing I saw on social media was legal experts advocating for the return of presumptive laws in rape cases — presumptive meaning “guess work”. As in a police officer randomly can stop a dreadlocked me because he presumes I’m carrying a bag full of weed.
Night patrol officers bump into me walking a friend home and next thing one of them has his hands all over me because he presumes I’m carrying an okapi knife — I assumed — in “that” neighbourhood. Then my friend — a legal fundi — advised the stunned lot about harassment laws because they presumed we didn’t know what harassment was. Then they barked for our ID cards because they presumed we walk without ID cards. We went about our way.
Arrest a person because you found them at a crime scene and presume they are the offender? Illegally detain a person without access to legal assistance or a court appearance because you presume they are guilty? Beat a suspect to force a confession out of him because they are presumed guilty? What medieval thinking!
King Lobhengula in 1880 had his own Queen Sister Mncengence executed because he presumed she had bewitched his wife Queen Xhwalile who had had a spell of giving birth to still-born babies. When the white men came along, the doctors diagnosed the hapless queen as suffering from common malaria which apparently causes still births.
This is 2015. Let us not be backward. The white men will not save us again. They drew our roads and maps, gave us medicines and such because they physically had to come in ships and planes to find out about us.
Nowadays they don’t need to come see the writings on our walls, they just go through our Twitter, laugh and stay away with their development — presumptively of course.
Sonny Jermain writes in his private capacity. This piece is an excerpt from his book “I Deserve to Be: Self-worth Is a Silent Killer” that is set to be published end of year.