Sunday, April 12, 2015

When Crime controllers become Perpetrators: What? Why? And way forward?

Malawi police on duty

It is around 12 midnight. Work has been exhausting and so you’re tired.  And, you decide: “I want to have a peaceful sleep tonight.” So you sleep like a baby…feeling all good and secure. But hey, don’t sleep that babyishly; it’s a mistake, a very grave mistake.

Why a mistake? Perhaps you’ve not been following events. There are verified stories going around that the people we entrusted with controlling crimes—the police—are themselves perpetrators of crime.

The glaring statistics in The Nation of 10th April, 2015 that, on average, two police officers in Malawi are involved in organized crime is both a big minus and a ghastly dent on the Malawi Police Services. To us Malawians, these statistics are a great concern so much so that every passing second, as day gives way to night, anxiety creeps in our minds as we are not sure of the safety and security of our valuable property or our dear life.


Certainly, the police officers’ involvement in organized crime is, as pointed out elsewhere here, of great concern. That be case, however, it is important to understand the police officers’ drive towards such uncalled for behavior. Is it the case that the recruitment process is flawed? Or it is the case that there is a genuine need for mindset change. The answer to both questions are both “yes’ and “no”.

“Yes” in the sense that there are cases where there have been allegations that the recruitment process is almost entirely guided by “who-knows-who” criterion resulting in picking underserving individuals for the noble job. This could be an explanation why we have unprofessional police officers who usually incapable of making quick and positive context-specific decisions for they have no academic qualifications—a Malawi School Certificate of Education (MSCE) to be precise—necessary for such capability. There is also the possibility, a real one for that matter, that the recruitment may not be a cause for the police officers’ involvement in crime because the number of bad apples in the MPS is just outrageously large for a public institution.

It might also be that there is need to change the mindset of police officers towards their job as rightly observed by some commentators. Yet still, police officers’ perceived mindset problem does not seem to give the whole picture.

What then is the real cause? Most undoubtedly, the real cause is under-appreciation. Without mincing words, the Malawi police officers are under-appreciated left, right, and center. The uncomfortable truth is that our crime controllers get peanuts as salary, live in small and sub-standard houses (and they usually make sorry extensions), and get looked down upon by the public.

And way forward?

Interestingly, recruitment and mindset might be, and of course are, some of the causes of police officers’ involvement in the perpetration of organized crime. It therefore rightly follows that paying serious attention to these elements is not only just proper but also a must-do. Though, truth be spelt out here, the deliberate initiation of measures intended to improve the welfare of police officers is the way forward out of this security disaster, if not the only way.

Malawi needs police officers who get paid a modest salary; it needs police officers whose houses are decent enough for a police officer; Malawi needs police officers who get appreciation for the noble roles they play in society. Police officers too are people with wants, and, however dignified or professional they may be, they will always make efforts to get what they want, legally or otherwise. Simple logic should tell anyone that rules of survival hates a man that stays hungry among plenty. So why not develop and implement measures that aim at helping our dear police officers get their wants in life in a way that accords with the law?

The suggestions made by some quarters of the society that the solution to police officers’ involvement in organized crime lies in instilling a sense of service in them to work professionally under the poor conditions they are in is wholly precarious at best and nauseatingly cosmetic at worst. Like already observed above, the improvement of the police officers’ welfare is the surefire way out.

It is a common understanding among any people that the deterioration of security is not only worrisome but also a cause for concern for insecurity is the enemy of progress. It thus becomes unbearably worrisome if the perpetrators of the insecurity are the same people we put our trust on for security. That’s why this security disaster needs an urgent solution that more now than now.

Up until such time a solution is found to address the police-perpetrated insecurity Malawians have two options; go to prison or trust no one no matter their nobility. For Tony Robbins says: “If you want security, go to prison.” And for the second option, Willa Cather opines: “No one can build his security upon the nobleness of another person.” Malawians, choose your option now.

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