Comparative Policing Discourse: An Interview with Mr. Bekithemba Mlauzi, Ex Chief of Police, Republic of Zimbabwe

Comparative Policing Discourse: An interview With Mr. Bekithemba Mlauzi, A United Nations Service Medal Awardee and the Ex-Chief of Police, Republic of Zimbabwe

Ms. Garima Prashad & Sanjay Vashishtha

Please note: The purpose of this comparative policing discourse is to create an avenue/forum to promote Evidence Based Policing and Policy making in India and to share democratic experiences so like EBP experiments can be replicated in India due to a similar socio-demograph. This would both be cost-effective and efficient. Once compiled, an endeavour will be made to publish these in a systematic and  chronological order to circulate them in policing organisations.

Q1. Can you kindly share your experience in Policing?

Policing is an interesting job that requires passion, commitment and a will to serve the state and not the government of the day. My experiences in policing and entail the following; initially I responded to and attended to crime scenes, and preliminary investigations of the scene. I also supervised patrols within the Central Business District of Harare in Zimbabwe, where I carried out to crime analysis, trends and planned patrols in response to prevalent crimes. Thereafter, I trained as a Special Tactics Unit officer and was later on deployed to the Mozambican border as part of the Police Anti Bandit Unit (PABU), a counter insurgency unit that repelled incursions from the Renamo Bandits while protecting the civilian population along the Zimbabwean border. Later on in 1993, I was appointed as one of the Personal Assistants and Advisor to the African Union’s Eminent Person to the Liberian conflict. This was followed by a transfer to staff branch handling human resources, administration and financial management. In 2001 to 2002, I served as a United Nations Police peacekeeper in East Timor where I was appointed as Project Manager for East Timor Police Service in Manufahi District. I also served as a training administrator to the Police Staff College in Zimbabwe, Initial Training Depot and later a training supervisor at Harare Professional Updating Centre. Between 2005 and 2010, I trained as a lawyer whilst serving. After graduation, I was then transferred to the Legal Services Directorate. My duties entailed litigation, legal advice, disciplinary appeals, and coordinating the National Action Plan for Orphans and Vulnerable Children in Zimbabwe, Inter Ministerial Committee on Human Rights and Humanitarian Law member and coordinating the training of senior police officers on disciplinary matters, human rights, child rights and humanitarian law.

Q2. Can you kindly highlight the policing technique adopted by the Republic of Zimbabwe in the last two decades?

Prior to 1995, the policing technique was unclear while during colonial times it was repressive policing. Around 1995, the Zimbabwe Republic Police adopted a community policing technique modelled along the Japanese model of kobuns and the UK home officer scheme. Later on, owing to political turmoil in Zimbabwe, intelligence led policing was also adopted. At some point in time, the Zimbabwe Republic Police embarked on what is known as ZIMPOD, a project funded by DFID. Through this project the police introduced change management, focusing on strategic and service planning, performance management, a competency framework, crime management, operations management and improved resources management. It also introduced a service charter, a marketing tool that made promises to the public. The promises were,

  • To respond to calls within 3 rings or 10 seconds,
  • Personal visits at the charge office within a minute,
  • Correspondence within 7 days,
  • To attend scenes of crime within specified time under grade A calls within 10 minutes for urban stations and 2 hours for rural stations; grade B calls within 3hours for urban stations and 48 hours for rural stations.
  • Investigate crimes within the specified time frame,
  • Public order and re-assurance.

It adopted what is known as the five core areas approach to policing that is, Response to calls, Crime Investigations, Traffic, Public Order and Reassurance and Community assistance. Through service planning also came crime analysis, detection and crime prevention all of which rely on specified tools to manage crime. Some aspects of problem oriented policing were noticed, predictive policing and there was an increase of police numbers by a hundred percent a sign of policing by numbers.

Q3. In furtherance to the second question, what effect did it have on the incidence on crime?

Though there is some form of collection of statistics, it is difficult to say what effect the above has had on crime. I say this because service planning remains unmatched with deployment of adequate resources such as patrols vehicles, specialized equipment, well-trained officers, etc. There is no proper and scientific measurement of the policing techniques used. The Zimbabwe Republic Police technological and forensic resources are archaic and leave a lot to be desired. Over the years funds have not been availed to upgrade and improve these two. Similarly, the police have seen a deterioration of standards in the initial training, continuous training and development and deployment of specialized officers in units such as scenes of crime, traffic Department and others leading to depletion of speciality. The police has seen more and more political interference and in fact became more politically oriented policing than the envisaged community oriented policing. The high quality of planning developed over the years to date, unfortunately remains unmatched by deployment of material, human, information and financial resources. There is poor operational management, such as the slow response to crimes, or scene attendance and investigations due to such resource shortage. Every police practitioner is aware that evidence gathering is key during the first few minutes of a crime occurrence. Also, morale within the force is low among junior operational officers whose conditions of service are deplorable. As a result, corruption tendencies continue to escalate on a daily basis. Because of the aforementioned, crime statistics are questionable as some crimes are not properly investigated, others’ outcome depends on bribing officers while some crimes of a political nature go unreported or are simply ignored.

Q4. What do you think about the crime reporting/recording in Zimbabwe? Can you kindly elaborate on hidden crimes like domestic violence and its policing?

  1. Reporting

In theory Zimbabwe has one of the best the policing plan on the African continent. In fact, it was at some point the best police force, a pride of the continent. It used to be excellent, corruption free and very professional in its dealings with crime issues and policing in general. Policing standards are, however deteriorating at an alarming rate. Corruption, nepotism, unprofessional promotions and politics among other issues are the major causes of this decline. On the one hand, there are offences of a political nature or perpetrated by politicians that the police turns a blind eye on while on the other some offences go unreported because they are ignored, others are poorly investigated due to lack of resources, acts of bribery and/or corruption. There are state perpetrated crimes that are designed to protect those in power. In some situations citizens do not report crimes because they know that nothing will happen. Police officers also practice discrimination in the minority and marginalized communities who as a result are deterred from reporting crimes. Of concern also is poor training, lackadaisical scene response and attendance, substandard investigations and outdated techniques that result in acquittals. Hence, citizens lose faith in the system and stop reporting, thus increasing the dark figure of crime. The political, economic, social and technological environments are not helpful in this regard.

  1. Hidden Crimes

Zimbabwe boosts of a strong policy and law on domestic violence. Section 4 of Domestic Violence Act (Cap 5:16) creates offences of economic, physical, emotional, financial abuse inter alia. In addition to the aforementioned, the Act creates a National Domestic Violence Committee and there are committees and the Provincial and District levels. These committees which comprise all stakeholders have in effect resulted in the police, prosecution and judiciary taking crimes of domestic violence seriously. Also, sections 9 and 10 of the Act provide an interim protection order and protection order, respectively, that works effectively in deterring crimes. All crimes of domestic violence nature are taken seriously, though there is room for improvement. In addition to the above, the specialized unit known as the Victim Friendly Unit and the Victim Friendly Courts ensures speedy trial of offenders. Similarly, the Police Public Relations Department provides conciliation and mediation services in the least serious cases. Court process for the interim protection order was simplified by the introduction of easy to complete forms. Once stamped by the Clerk of Court, the order comes into force and the police are obliged to act. The procedure for obtaining a protection order in terms of the Act was simplified by the creation of forms that can be completed by lay persons and once stamped by the Clerk of Court, the interim protection order comes into effect immediately. The police are compelled to serve and enforce the order. One major challenge is that reports are withdrawn by spouses, especially women because, many a times the husband and bread winner whose is often the accused is arrested. This leaves children and the family without any source of lively woods forcing them to compromise.

Q5. As a police officer, what is your opinion on Evidence-Based Policing/Policy making? What do you think will be its implications on policing in India, in light of India’s cultural / religious heterogeneity?

  1. EBP/Policy Making

Evidence-based policing and policy making involves the testing of police strategies within the aim to determine what works best. According to EBP, police practices should be based on scientific evidence of what works. It requires research, assessment and evaluation of policing and its practices which is currently not happening in India and Zimbabwe. The results that come out of the research are then integrated into the standards. Policy making, should therefore take into account the evaluation of policing practices to produce procedures based on what works best in the circumstances.

  1. Implications on India

Evidence-based policing requires research and testing of various policing strategies. There must be the scientific study of the goings on as police carry out their functions. It requires regular analysis and evaluation of the strategy and the community settings in which policing is undertaken. Implications for India are that there is a need for radical reforms in Indian policing. Already, India has taken steps to address the problems through the Supreme Court of India 2006 directives in the Prakash Singh case which sadly remain unimplemented. The 1998/99 Riberio and 2000 Padmanabhaiah Committees, 1979 National Police Commission, and the Police Act Drafting/Sorabjee Committee have all come up with the recommendations to implement change management and possibly introduce evidence based policing. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be political will on the part of Indian politicians and police management. In my view, and those of other experts, there is need to amend or repeal the Police Act of 1861, resource the police with adequate financial, material, informational and the human resources. This must be coupled with effecting changes which make the police in India professional and shaking off political influence and interference, misuse and abuse of this law and order function. Further, more work is required in particular for improving forensic services, scientific research and investigation techniques. India requires an independent complaints commission, policing of the police. Like in Zimbabwe, India is bogged down by pre-colonial era legacy of infantry style training of the police and emphasis on drill that the leaves little time for perfecting policing and investigation techniques. As a result training produces half-baked officers. Research shows that the police -public ratio in India is approximately 1:769, meaning that police officers are understaffed overworked and tend to be less efficient. It is important to therefore to consider increasing the numbers of police officers. For every police officer available two must be recruited to bring the ratio to 1:220-280 in line with the International standards. India must implement the 10% quota for female officers in order to deal with the issues of domestic violence and also introduce soft policing. For example, Zimbabwe is moving towards a 50% quota for female officers. Last but not least, political will and radicalism are required to deal with corruption, indiscipline and the police’s conditions of service to address low morale, poor remuneration and poor living standards. Without all of this foundation it is impossible for India to move towards evidence-based policing.

Q6. Can you elaborate on the hierarchy of police officers, and if there are policies to address the mental health of the rank-and-file officers.

  1. Hierarchy

In both countries the hierarchy of the police is marked by top heavy systems, with militarised ranks and the discipline that stifles efficiency and effectiveness of policing. Both of the Zimbabwe and India should to consider moving away from police force to police service. Promotions are usually not based on merit, but on affiliation, sexual abuse, politics and sometimes nepotism. Though Zimbabwe boasts of a very good officer training system, highly skilled and experienced officers are getting frustrated and leaving the force while those who uphold the law tended to be sidelined in preference officers who may not uphold the law or can bend the rules for the benefit of the political system. In the case of India, the fewer female officers is a cause for concern. In addition to the above, those promoted within the system other than professionally and the merit based the promotion tended to serve at the mercy of their master instead of being professional and upholding the law.

  1. Policies to address mental health

In both countries, very little is being done to address the mental health of police officers. Most of them are overworked and overburdened by the social problem as a result of poor working conditions. Counselling services and the psychosocial support are almost non-existent, leaving the officers to cope with the issues of life on their own. This is tantamount to deploying dangerous armed men to enforce law and order and often results in abuse of authority and power.

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