Editor's Comment

Zambia Police must always be ahead

THE Zambia Police Service is under constant pressure to perform well. This is the way it just has to be because there is no room for compromise on security.
Often citizens and sometimes visitors, too, expect the police to do much more than what they are doing to maintain law and order on the many fronts on which they fight crime.
This is a tough but surmountable challenge for the police. Tough because they need more numbers, they need more tools and they need better skills. Surmountable because they have the experience and the backing of Government and security conscious citizens.
The police should keep trying to win the confidence of members of the public, many of whom have little faith in it. This is largely because what is often highlighted are the failures rather than the successes of the police.
It is also true that the service has its share of undisciplined officers. These dent the image of the police and erode much of the successes that the service scores.
That is why Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo has urged the police to protect constitutional order by enhancing professionalism and discipline in the service.
Mr Kampyongo is right when he says members of the public expect the police to be efficient and professional in the execution of their duties.
Clearly the police, too, know what is expected of them as evidenced by the theme of Zambia Police Service open day held over the weekend. The theme ‘Police and the community: Working together in preventing and combating crime and creating a clean environment’ is as apt as members of the community would expect.
This, as Mr Kampyongo said, calls for enhancement of discipline and professionalism in the service.
To work together with the community, the police, as stated, must win the confidence of the members of the public. They can win the hearts of the public by upping their levels of efficiency.
Police efficiency is relatively easy to measure in the eyes of the public. For instance, if an investigation takes too long, the public would perceive this as inefficiency.
The public wants and demands quick results. If there is a series of murders in a particular community, residents expect a quick arrest of the culprits. They also expect a quick and successful prosecution of the culprits.
There have been instances when this lack of confidence in the police has dropped to lowest levels possible and this triggers rage against the law enforcers. Some residents turn against police facilities and personnel. Of course, this is a kind of reaction that they sometimes regret later, but by then, a lot of physical and emotional damage would have been done.
This can or should be avoided by enforcing the theme of the open day discussions.
As it were, the police cannot be everywhere all the time but if they have a good rapport with members of the various communities, they would be well informed about any security threats and actual misdeeds.
Such community eyes and ears for the police could, however, be discouraged if response from the police is slow. All too often, members of the public have complained about the police arriving late at crime scenes and that the reason given is lack of transport.
This is expected to be a complaint for the past. Government has made considerable efforts to provide the police with the needed tools for effective execution of their noble tasks.
The transport fleet has improved significantly and Government has continued to improve the welfare of police officers to motivate them. They live in better houses and work in much improved offices.
There are some officers whose work and living environment is still substandard, but there is no doubt that they, too, will sooner rather than later also have their facilities appropriately upgraded.
The Zambia Police Service is also on a massive skills upgrading programme which should lead to significantly improve service delivery.
With technology changing rapidly, the police need to upgrade their skills and also acquire equipment that will ensure that the long arm of the law reaches every law breaker.
For instance, as has been the case with other law enforcers, the police should consider the use of drones to improve their surveillance and pursuit of criminals.
The bottom line is that the police should constantly be ahead of criminals.

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