They mark the tension, society faces in its war against crime, and in its relationship with those employed by the state to keep it safe. At a national level, one would expect the relationship between the law enforcement and the public to be a cordial one. The coercive powers of the state, it would be expected, would never be felt by the law-abiding citizen, but only, those who contrive to hurt the public interest. Sadly, that is not always the case.
Law enforcement institutions are generally appropriated by the politicians for the sustenance of the preferred political order, and for the generation of preferred political outcomes. Our Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC) are perfect cases in point on how, law enforcement agencies can veer totally off track, and sycophantically pant after political handlers either as a self-induced institutional calamity, or at the instance of those who hold political power. The consequences are dire to those at the wrong end of the stick, and it is generally, the very public they are contracted to protect.
Oversight committees of Parliament are generally constituted for seeking law enforcement accountability outside checks and balances of institutions that form part of the culpable state machinery, like internal affairs divisions, and miserable contraptions like the inexistent Directorate of Intelligence and Security (DIS) Tribunal. It is for that reason, that they are generally opposition led.
Clearly, this creates a tension between a ruling axis of power, and institutions meant to keep it in check. The French example, offers us a point of reference. Why, would any state seek to protect the police against filming of law enforcement deeds that occur in public? What could potentially be hurtful to the integrity of law enforcement officers, except acts not in tandem with the lawful exercise of coercive powers? Is it not in the public interest that the public should have a record of their own account about what law enforcement agencies do in the use of coercive powers? What can possibly, be wrong with that? Probing further, isn’t that in the interest of law enforcement itself?
We have had instances in this country, where journalists have been stopped from filing events by law enforcement. 1’m aware of a journalist who, at some point, had their camera confiscated. My position is that, if you cannot be denied a right to witness a public incident, you should not, and cannot lawfully, be denied the right to keep a record of what you witnessed. If you are entitled to keep a record of what you witnessed in your memory, why would it be wrong to
keep same in digital memory or some other form of recording?
Yet, these questions still vex lawyers, law enforcement and the general public. Surprisingly, they still vex first world legal systems of mature democracies, and highly trained and developed law enforcement institutions. So much, that
France, and advanced country in every imaginable respect, and a potential model for all that is democratically right, voted for a plainly regressive step that sought to cover up law enforcement abuse of the general public, a position they are now reconsidering. It took massive protests, including near riots, by an angry citizenry, to call the French legislature to order.
In the meantime, in the same country, a black man was brutally assaulted by the police, in his office, for not having worn a facemask or some charge around to that effect. Were it not for his office CCTV footage, the truth behind the assault, would never have been known. In fact, it is very likely, the police would have said he threatened them with violence or he had been resisting arrest. They would have said it under oath, corroborated each other and held have been a villain forever. It would have been his word against that of three police offices with a record of “exemplary conduct spanning many years and who had dedicated their lives to purchase safety at tremendous risk to their personal safety”.
The French example is by no means an odd one. There was George Floyd. At home, we had a grave and gruesome example. How we got past it without a major diplomatic row is still a mystery to me. 1’m just glad we did.
Years back, a team of Botswana police officers and BDF soldiers, on patrol, came upon a house occupied by illegal immigrants in Gaborone. It was somewhere around the densely-populated White City location. Some White City home-owners would extort a daily fee from desperate and homeless Zimbabwean illegal immigrants just for a place to sleep overnight. The immigrants slept in overcrowded rooms, with no discrimination as to gender.
The situation, in Zimbabwe, was really bad, at the time, not to say it has been any better since. Our uniformed men decided they would not handle the immigration problem in terms of the statutes. They would do it their own way, and close the matter. They forced the males to have sex with the females, while they watched. 1’m told they even told the males to work harder. For most males told to rape at gunpoint coitus failed. For one, the poor woman was penetrated. How such atrocious conduct is possible on trained officers still baffles me?