THE Commissioner of Police, Holomo Molibeli, on Friday added his voice to the growing chorus of condemnations of police brutality, saying the law enforcement agents should stop the “uncalled for” killings of civilians.
Commissioner Molibeli said this a recent event where he received 10 twin cab Toyota trucks worth about M4, 7 million that were purchased by the government for the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS). The vehicles are expected to improve the operational efficiency of the police force.
Commissioner Molibeli’s remarks come against the background of escalating cases of police brutality which have seen several people dying at the hands of the police. The alleged police brutality has attracted widespread local and international condemnation from the opposition as well as human rights groups.
Even Prime Minister Thomas Thabane has expressed his displeasure and has ordered Commissioner Molibeli and the Minister of Police, ‘Mampho Mokhele, to act against rogue police officers.
And on Friday, Commissioner Molibeli said it was a “shame” that civilians have died at the hands of the police. He cautioned the police from committing any more brutalities on civilians, saying that civilian deaths at the hands of the police were uncalled for.
“No more lives should be lost in the hands of the police,” Commissioner Molibeli said adding: “That has to stop”.
“We have to find ways of putting a stop to the killings. Your work as police officers is not to end lives but to save them. People should be safer in our custody than they are in the hands of the untrained community policing groups.”
He said there was need for further training for police to equip them with other skills to react to resistance from civilians than just resorting to shooting them with their guns.
“Our officers are underequipped and more often than not, they resort to using their guns in responding to resistance. That would not be the case if they were equipped with skills and other equipment than just the guns,” Commissioner Molibeli said, adding that counselling sessions for the police were needed to help them deal with some of the traumatic incidents they came across in the line of duty.
The use of extralegal means by the police to obtain information from suspects appears to be a deeply ingrained problem that needs to be urgently addressed. Early last year, the Minister of Police, retired Senior Superintendent ‘Mampho Mokhele, publicly admitted that the police used illegal methods including torture to extract confessions from suspects.
Ms Mokhele, who served as a police officer for 37 years, made the revelation at a ceremony where the LMPS was presented with forensic equipment which was donated by the Algerian government.
She however, said she hoped the donation would go a long way in removing the need for torture as the police could now use it to determine whether or not a suspect had been involved in the commission of a crime.
“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 at the time.
And the issue appears to be continuing as Commissioner Molibeli also highlighted them on Friday.
He however, warned civilians against attacking police officers, adding that the latter had a right to protect themselves where necessary.
“Police officers have the right to protect themselves when situations call for it. I once overheard someone saying that they would kill at least one police officer every month. We will not allow that to happen. No one will just march in and kill police officers. Police stations are not a playground.”
Turning to the new vehicles, Commissioner Molibeli said while they were a welcome addition, there was still need for more cars to enable the police to effectively respond to emergency calls from civilians.
“We need more cars for us achieve our policing mandate. Our cars are overused because they attend to different emergencies. We need well equipped ambulances and fire extinguishers. We have had many occasions where fire gutted businesses and there was little we could do to save property because we do not have equipment,” he said, adding that they had already submitted another list of required vehicles as well as 30 motorbikes.
Commissioner Molibeli further said they were looking to increase police drivers’ allowances from a measly M10 a month to at least M200.
“Our drivers are given M10 a month as driving allowances on top of the other police engagements that they do. That is about M0, 33 a day. That is just too little and we are negotiating for at least M200 a month. We have to keep them motivated to do their work as best as they can. We also need to give our drivers regular training sessions so that they are able to keep the vehicles roadworthy for as long as possible.”
On her part, Deputy Commissioner of Police Keketso Monaheng said the new vehicles would ensure that police officers responded to emergency calls on time.
“These cars should be used to attend to emergency calls by the public. These cars have been bought to serve the people,” Deputy Commissioner Monaheng said.