Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO
DURING the Police Day commemorations on Monday, Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo told Inspector- General of Police Kakoma Kanganja to ensure that police officers are dressed in uniforms of ‘similar shades’.
It is good that Mr Kampyongo has noted the lack of uniformity among the men and women in the Police.
It is also worth noting that Government is addressing the matter with a sense of urgency it deserves.
That is why Mr Kampyongo was emphatic in stating that he wants to see police officers ‘properly clothed’ in the next quarter.
“Government has done its part and the police command must do its own part,” he said.
Mr Kampyongo was spot on because the way men and women in uniform dress nowadays, it is difficult to distinguish who does what.
Of all the defence and security wings, police interact more with civilians.
It is, therefore, imperative that citizens are able to distinguish the officers and their responsibilities.
For instance, general duties officers (Lilayi Police College trained) put on khaki uniforms as their official work dress.
During national ceremonies and other occasions such as funerals they are supposed to wear a blue serge.
Lilayi trained officers are usually trained for administrative duties at police stations (general duties) such as crime detection.
As for combatants (paramilitary and mobile unit officers), theirs is a combat. And, like general duties officers, they too are entitled to a blue serge.
Combatants wear the military-like uniform depicting their battle-preparedness. These are officers responsible for VIP (very important people) protection such as State House, Vice-President’s residence, guarding ministers as well as vital installations such as banks, airports and other facilities.
However, with time it has become difficult to distinguish the men and women in police uniform because their dress is cross-cutting.
This has mainly to do with the procurement of the uniforms.
As a result, even Lilayi trained officers are seen in paramilitary uniform while the dreaded paras wear the uniform reserved for constables from Lilayi.
It is good that the issue of police dress has reached Mr Kampyongo’s office and it is receiving adequate attention.
Truth be told, it has never been the desire by men and women in police uniform to wear any uniform they find.
But the police may have been caught up in issues of funding.
As a result of inadequate funding, people in procurement or suppliers ended up buying what was cost-effective and eventually ended up not meeting the standard dress code.
The uniform is not locally acquired and oftentimes the supplier would only guarantee one type of uniform, thereby depriving the other units of their desired dress code.
Even when the procurement is done, it at times does not get delivered to all.
Those who have a privilege to have an inclination towards those holding high positions would even acquire two pairs each at the expense of those who may unfortunately not have the same privilege.
The privileged few get new uniforms during important commemorative days such as the one held on Monday.
Other days when men and women receive new uniforms, especially in Lusaka, it is during gazette days such as Women’s Day, Independence Day, Labour Day, Africa Freedom Day, Heroes and Unity, Trade Fair, Agricultural Show and Independence Day, among others.
While those in the urban areas may easily get uniforms, it is different from those in rural areas.
It is surprising how officers within the same institutions will be begging for belts, pairs of trousers, shirts, etc from their friends.
That is why it is not surprising nowadays to see either police or Zambia Correctional Service, as well as Immigration Department staff acquiring their own material from Kamwala and having the same sewn by tailors in the markets.
Officers reach this stage when the only uniform they got during pass-out gets torn or starts to get smaller or fading.
This is common for officers in rural areas who are virtually forgotten.
As the police embarks on dressing its officers uniforms of ‘similar shades’, even the rural-based ones should be remembered.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: BENEDICT TEMBO