By Sean Tembo – PeP Presiden
1. When news that eight police officers had been badly beaten by some villagers in Katete, first broke a few weeks ago, my first reaction was; what kind of Police officers are these who allow themselves to be captured and beaten? To me, that was incompetence and lack of judgement of the highest order. In other jobs, you can get away with being incompetent and lacking judgement, but in the Police, you can easily end up dead. That is why the people of Katete should be thanked for having the presence of mind to spare the lives of the eight Police officers. When a mob is angry, it is very rare that they would exercise restraint and just give you an adequate beating but not too much to kill you.
2. My expectation was that after that Katete incident, the Police Command would institute a thorough investigation to determine the circumstances in which eight seasoned and fully trained officers allowed themselves to be captured. Why didn’t they gather adequate intelligence from the ground before mounting their operation? Why didn’t they retreat when they saw that they were outnumbered by the villagers? Why didn’t they carry crowd-control equipment such as helmets, teargas cannisters, tear smoke, rubber bullets etcetera? After doing that thorough investigation, the Police Command should have admonished and possibly instituted disciplinary action against all the eight officers for possible dereliction of duty. The lessons drawn from Kawaza village should have been used as a case study in Police training colleges at Lilayi, Kamfinsa and Sondela.
3. But alas, instead of using professionalism in dealing with their officers involved in the Katete incident, the Police Command decided to use emotions. Barely days after the incident, the Inspector General of Police announced that all the eight beaten police officers will be promoted. Promoted for what exactly? Promoted for being beaten? In fact, by allowing themselves to be overpowered and beaten, the Police exposed the public to a greater risk because the rioters had access to Police firearms and if it was in other parts of the country, those firearms could have been stolen and used to commit other crimes. In other words, the incompetence and lack of judgement of the eight police officers actually endangered the wider general public. We are only lucky that the good people of Katete are not militant and we’re not interested in the firearms. They were only interested in administering a sizeable dose of discipline.
4. Let us fast-forward to the unfortunate incident of a few days ago in Mpongwe were two armed officers were beaten mercilessly by a drunk truck driver, and sadly one of the Police Officers has since passed away. When l look at a video of the incident which has been circulating on social media, it makes my body shiver as officers and the suspect appear to be wrestling for an AK-47. Although the video is short and unclear, the fact that the two officers were overpowered and severely beaten means that the perpetrator finally had access to the police firearm. This greatly endangered the general public.
5. The Katete and Mpongwe incidents, although unrelated are very similar in nature, in the sense that in both cases, Police Officers allowed themselves to be at the mercy of the perpetrator (s). They also allowed the assailant (s) to have access to Police firearms. The most unfortunate part is that the Police Command do not see anything wrong with officers who exercise poor judgement in the line of duty. Instead, the Police Command sees it fit to reward such officers with promotions. This means that the Police Command has very low standards of performance for its officers. If l was President of Zambia, l would have instructed the Inspector General of Police to send the eight Katete officers back to Police College for re-training. But since we are under a Government that rewards incompetence, am sure that we shall more Police Officers getting apprehended by suspects, instead of the other way around.