Police must spring clean

ELSEWHERE in this paper we carry a harrowing story of a 65-year-old former police officer who alleges that he was beaten by police officers in Mokhotlong.

Maputi Ramoholi claims he was stripped before being savagely beaten with a spade on August 4.

He also claims he was handcuffed and had his legs chained during the brutal attack.

Ramoholi has also alleged that he was beaten on the ribs with the butt of a gun before being strangled.

Whatever crime Ramoholi is accused to have committed does not in any way justify the horrendous torture that the poor fellow claims to have been subjected to.

This case provides the most vivid illustration of what is wrong with our police.

Police commissioner Malejaka Letooane will be the first to confess she has serious house-cleaning issues to attend to within her force.

This admission is crucial if we are to see the force being transformed from a feared, repressive agency to one that truly serves the community and is at peace with that community.

The prison service, for example, has dumped its feared tag as an institution that punishes offenders.

It now seeks to rehabilitate offenders as its new name suggests.

The same cannot be said of our police.

At present the reality is that the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) is a soiled brand.

Relations between the force and the community are clearly less than amicable if the number of lawsuits filed against the police is anything to go by.

Too often civillians who have sued the police for torture have won their cases in the courts.

It is clear the police need to clean up their act to repair their toxic relations with the community.

Sadly the Ramoholi case illustrates that the Lesotho police have a Herculean task to restore the public’s trust in the force.

They need nothing short of a miracle.

We have argued in previous editorials that the violence often unleashed by our police officers is a by-product of our past as a people.

But it is still within our power to correct that skewed past in line with modern policing practices.

Our police are unfortunately struggling to shake off the tag of being a violent cog in the state’s repressive security apparatus.

The perception is that the police have still not shifted an inch from the brutal tactics adopted during the dark 70s.

They are still struggling to shake off violent tendencies.

The whole state security machinery, including the police, was unleashed to bludgeon citizens to keep dissent in check.

Our police are still in that old mode.

No wonder our police still resort to these ancient tactics to maintain law and order.

But this is the 21st century.

The police force, as an institution, is crying out for a radical shake-up to comply with modern demands.

We cannot fathom why the LMPS would still want to cling on to these “stone age” tactics to deal with suspects.

That they can still resort to torture to extract confessions in this day and age should be quite an embarrassment to the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

Our police should know there are far superior methods to investigate crimes than savagely beating up a 65-year-old man with a spade.

The police should also never believe that they are above the law when dealing with suspects.

It is also important to ensure that no police officer, no matter his rank, can carry out atrocities against defenceless citizens and be allowed to get away with it.

This is no mean task.

It calls for a complete change of mindset within our law enforcement agents.

Our police need to cultivate deep respect for the rights of the individual.

The point is that the rights of the individual should never be sacrificed in the fight against criminals.

But our police have for years been mistakenly placing the need to clamp down on crime above individual rights.

Lesotho should have no room for sadistic police officers who enjoy seeing the sight of blood and damaged limbs.

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