THE move by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to tighten the recruitment process for individuals wishing to join the service comes at a critical time for Lesotho’s police who have often been accused of incompetence and brutality.
Under the measures announced by the LMPS this week the police will from now onwards only recruit those that have passed Cambridge Overseas School Certificate with first, second and third class.
Those with grades lower than these will find no room within the LMPS. This move must be applauded. The decision will effectively result in a qualitative improvement in the caliber of the police officer on the street which had left a lot to be desired. It could also spur an improvement in policing methods. The move should mark the beginning of a major reform process for the LMPS.
As we have argued in previous editorials, we have serious misgivings about the methods used by some of our police officers.
The government has had to fork out hundreds of thousands of maloti after victims of torture successfully sued in courts of
laws. Such individuals would have been beaten to a pulp by investigating officers whose only means of extricating information from suspects is through brutal methods of torture.
This reform process which will ultimately result in smarter police officers who are not at their wits’ end in dealing with sophisticated crime should put an end to such brutal, archaic methods. We need a smarter police service that is competent enough to tackle sophisticated crimes in the 21st century. This requires that the LMPS raises the bar significantly in its recruitment requirements.
Gone are the days when recruitment into the service was based on physical strength alone and the capacity to run to catch suspects. While physical fitness is required, that should not be the be-all and end-all in the recruitment process.
But merely tinkering with the qualifications alone will not be the magic bullet in addressing some of the serious shortcomings of our police. We believe the police must get more financial resources in the ministerial budget allocations to be empowered to deal with these challenges.
The LMPS must not be starved of resources. The government must also ensure that conditions of service and remuneration for the police are improved. The LMPS must pay well so as to attract the best minds. Even with limited resources the recruitment bar must be lifted higher so that the police service is not filled with chaff. Lesotho needs more university graduates within its police service.
Perhaps it is time for those within the LMPS to take a cue from the Lesotho Defence Force which appears to have done extremely well in recruiting quality staff within its ranks. We believe when all these measures are done we can get the LMPS to a level where the service is not the butt of cruel jokes around the country.
The police service should be an esteemed profession where the best brains at university should be clamouring to join.
Days when academic drop-outs and dunderheads would line up to join the LMPS because they had nowhere else to go should come to an end.