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Give cops more resources

WE have always known that corruption, misconduct, lack of training and lack of resources are the reasons why our police force is doing so badly in the battle against crime.
Yet even that knowledge, gathered through observation and experience, could not have prepared us for the results of a study conducted on the state of the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) by the African Police Civilian Oversight Forum (APCOF).
The APCOF was established by the Southern African Police Chief Cooperation Organisation (SARPCCO) in 1995 to promote cooperation among regional forces and make recommendations to governments of the member countries on how they can improve “training, policing strategies and policing performance”.
Conducted with the help of the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), an NGO, the study found that there is an increase in corruption among police officers.
The report said although cadets go through a course in human rights, that training was inadequate.
The use of excessive force on suspects continues, the report said.
The report noted that most of our police officers lack basic training in the use of lethal and non-lethal weapons.
Police officers carry their private guns because the police force does not issue service pistols.
It said some police officers were stealing exhibits recovered from suspects.
Other police officers, the report said, were taking up part-time jobs without permission from the commissioner of police.
The report added that public confidence in the police has been eroded.
The encouraging thing about these problems is that they can be sorted from within.
The LMPS can revamp its training programmes to improve the quality of our police officers.
Those that are already on the job can still be trained.
With proper measures in place, the LMPS can weed out corruption from its ranks and stop the use of excessive force. The same can be said for officers that steal exhibits and those that moonlight.
Proper policies on discipline and training will help sort out these problems.
Our big problem however is with the other findings of the study.
The report said the LMPS was understaffed and poorly resourced.
It observed that apart from the lack of vehicles some police officers did not have basic tools like handcuffs.
Police buildings were in a state of disrepair, the report said.
Police officers were poorly paid.
We worry because, unlike the matters of discipline and training that the LPMS can sort out, these are matters for the government to address.
We say this because it is the government that allocates resources to the police force.
The fight against crime costs money. So do efforts to prevent crime.
For any police force to win that battle it must be well resourced.
It is unacceptable that, in this day and age, our police officers have to go into the field without handcuffs.
It will be unfair to expect a police force that doesn’t have cars to do proper investigations and policing.
While the element of greed cannot be ruled out we suspect that poor salaries are the main reason why police officers engage in corruption.
That is why it is important for the government to review the funding it allocates to the LMPS. Salaries for police officers must be improved.
The police must not scrounge around for resources to do their work.
The government must take this report seriously for it makes crucial recommendations that will certainly help the police force and indeed the whole country if implemented.
It is our hope that this report will not suffer the same fate as previous reports that have been filed and forgotten.
Our police force might have problems but it’s certainly not beyond redemption.

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