THE leadership of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) have admitted that police are often “angry, brutal and aggressive” in dealing with criminal suspects.
They promised to put an end to the illegal actions.
The “aggressive police behaviour” came under the spotlight during the recent launch of the International Youth Fellowship’s (IYF) mind education programme.
The five year training programme which was launched on Wednesday at the Police Training College in Maseru is aimed at curbing aggressive police behaviour which has resulted in the illegal torture of suspects.
The assistant commissioner who is also the director of training, Bohang Phasumane, expressed optimism that the programme will help to transform the manner in which police officers conducted themselves.
She said they decided to work with IYF after observing that the police training did not cater for the officers’ psychological needs.
“We build them (police officers) physically but they are not psychologically developed hence the need for mind education.
“Police officers are often very angry, brutal and aggressive. For several years the public have been complaining and the mind education aims to change that,” Assistant Commissioner Phasumane said.
For his part, police commissioner, Holomo Molibeli, said the lectures were useful particularly in ensuring that the police recruits did not get in unnecessary trouble.
“People commit crimes because of the way they think and a change of mind (after the training) will equate to a change of behaviour,” Commissioner Molibeli said.
“You (police recruits) should go out and change the mindsets of your peers.”
Assistant Commissioner Phusumane’s admission of police aggression in dealing with suspects follows a February 2018 admission by the Police minister, retired Senior Superintendent ‘Mampho Mokhele, that the police use torture to extract confessions from suspects.
Ms Mokhele made the revelation during a February ceremony where the LMPS was presented with forensic equipment which was donated by the Algerian government.
The equipment is used to assist police investigations into serious crimes.
Ms Mokhele who served as a police officer for 37 years, admitted that the police sometimes resorted to torture in order to extract information from suspects.
“We as the police are often forced to use violence to get information out of people because at times we would be sure that the suspect committed the crime but due to lack of tangible evidence we have to use force,” Ms Mokhele said.
The admissions about torture and police brutality come against the background of complaints by prominent individuals and ordinary members of the public that police use torture to force suspects to confess to crime.
Last September, the opposition Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) deputy leader, Tšeliso Mokhosi, accused the police of torturing and forcing him to lie about the killing of Police Constable (PC) Mokalekale Khetheng during his interrogation.
In a detailed statement soon after his release on bail from custody, Mr Mokhosi narrated how LMPS members allegedly tortured and forced him to lie before the Magistrates’ Court about the death of PC Khetheng.
“Following my arrest and detention, I was placed in a dark and stinging cell at police headquarters, on that date (28 August) and starting from 18:00 hours or thereabout I was subjected to the most inhumane, barbaric, savage, traumatising, cruel and heartless treatment by police officers,” Mr Mokhosi alleged.
He subsequently fled the country, claiming his life was in danger.
In December 2017, the family of senior High Court judge, Justice ‘Maseforo Mahase, revealed that they had filed a civil lawsuit against the police for the torture their 22-year old son, Teboho, allegedly suffered while in custody that same month.
Teboho and his father had been arrested and detained at the Mafeteng Police Station in connection with the theft of M3 million worth of pensioners’ allowances at a pay-point in Mafeteng early last year.
However, the government recently said there is no evidence to support the claims that the police torture suspects.
In its presentation to the Southern African Development Double Troika Summit three weeks ago in Angola, the government said no one had ever stepped forward to report police brutality despite being asked to do so to enable “the law to take its course on perpetrators”.
Meanwhile, the IYF will conduct one hour mind education lectures every Wednesday to help the police to transform their behaviour.
An IYF representative, Abraham Nam, described mind education as a philosophy that is based on “changing the mindset to uplift the spirit from despair, pessimism, negligence, lethargy to being optimistic, zealous and joyful”.
IYF was founded in South Korea with the aim of transforming youths into responsible people who can make positive contributions to society.
Mr Nam said the programme had helped South Korea to emerge from its wretched status as one of the poorest nations in the world to its current status as one of the top-rated economies.
IYF Lesotho secretary, Mabekebeke Nts’asa said that they would extend the training programme to all security institutions namely the army, the prison service and the intelligence.