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Time to weed out rogue police officers

THE decision by the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) to set up “Roving Courts” to speed up investigations into cases of misconduct involving the police was long overdue.
The move is a tacit admission that there are indeed too many rogue elements within the LMPS.
The general sentiment in the public is that our police have earned a dubious reputation of being among some of the most corrupt in southern Africa.
Not a week passes without a police officer being arrested for being on the wrong side of the law.
We have grown accustomed to the lame defence that our police are poorly paid and that’s why they are corrupt.
That is a very pathetic excuse.
We would like to believe that the setting up of the courts will go a long way towards repairing the police’s damaged brand.
It will also help protect the integrity of the police.
According to the police, any officer who faces charges of misconduct will be arraigned before the “judiciary committee” made up of 45 senior superintendents and sergeants.
Those found guilty will be instantly dismissed.
Dismissed officers will however retain the right to take up matters with the official courts if they feel the decision was unfair.
We would like to believe this is the best piece of news that we have received from our police in a very long time.
This newspaper has been on a virtual crusade to expose the often mind-boggling levels of corruption within the LMPS.
This is why we are happy that at last the police are now moving from the rhetoric of merely admitting there is a problem to actually doing something about it.
Corruption is a cancer that must be fought at all levels of society.
Left unchecked it stalls development and puts off foreign investors we desperately need as a country.
Lesotho is in a precarious economic position and cannot afford to lose any foreign investments.
It is therefore important that those charged with upholding our laws must inspire confidence that they can uphold the rule of law.
In short, we expect the police to be beyond reproach.
While the process to weed out corrupt police officers is a step in the right direction it should not be used to mask the dire need for reform within the police.
As we have argued before the LMPS must undergo a process of change to align it with modern policing methods.
The LMPS must reform its policing strategies.
We note with sadness that some of our police officers have struggled to move away from old “colonial style” policing tactics.
This is why these police officers are at peace when they use brute force to elicit confessions from suspects.
This is why the use of torture within the LMPS remains an accepted modus operandi.
Unless the LMPS embraces these reforms we shall continue to see victims of torture filing and winning huge lawsuits against the police.
Our police officers must undergo a process of re-education that has basic law and human rights as compulsory courses in their curriculum.
Public relations and customer service courses will also come in handy.
Their investigation skills also need to be enhanced.
The challenge is to modernise our police service while weeding out rogue elements.
After that process the government must then seriously look at improving the work conditions of our police.
There is no doubt that our police are underpaid, overworked and frustrated.
While these are not excuses for some police officers to go bad we believe they also contribute to the huge number of rogue elements in the police force.
The roving courts are a fantastic idea that should be implemented in a broader reform process to make the LMPS a better law enforcement agent.

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