Beaven Dhliwayo Features Writer
The recent case involving 11 police constables from different police stations who were arrested in Borrowdale while trying to extort money from a businessman they accused of illegally dealing in foreign currency and gold should have the force’s top brass worried.
The case has left the police with egg on their face, as it has the potential to cause distrust from the public, who depend on them to fightcrime and provide security.
This means that police boss now have a lot to do in terms of cleaning up corrupt officers within their ranks to set an example of how determined they are to fight corruption.
Police corruption is defined as “acts of misconduct by police officers aimed at obtaining financial benefits or other personal gains in exchange for selectively enforcing or manipulating rules, as well as the conduct of investigations and arrests”.
According to Transparency International, Zimbabwe is losing at least US$1 billion annually to corruption, with police and local government officials among the biggest offenders.
What leaves many asking questions with regards the Borrowdale incident is that one of the 11 arrested police officers was on suspension for misconduct, but had just been roped in to execute the plan.
The gang reportedly stormed the premises of Mr Vaya Sanjay Keshavji (48) in Borrowdale on Thursday last week, while driving in two unregistered vehicles.
How can 11 officers from different police stations have the guts to hatch such a plan to extort money without any fear that their numbers would sell them out?
This shows that the extent of corruption in the police force is now worrying, and needs collective interventions by police administrators, continuous political commitment, and an anti-corruption approach with alliances between the public, private and civil society sectors.
The Borrowdale incident has left police bosses exposed as they will battle to disassociate themselves from such corrupt acts being carried out in broad daylight by their subordinates.
More questions will be asked the police authorities, especially considering that a police constable who recently opened up on corruption in the police force and tendered his resignation has just been sent to jail after being charged with communicating with the media without authority.
It is worrying in the sense that instead of the senior officers responding to Constable Richard Maziva’s numerous letters in which he complained about corruption in the police service, they decided to charge him and lock him up for 14 days.
What kind of example are they setting?
The Herald edition of September 28, 2019 reported that throughout his seven years of service, Cst Maziva wrote several letters to his superiors, complaining of the alarming corruption levels in the police service, which were never responded to.
At times, he would write letters requesting to be transferred from the traffic section, which he felt was the most corrupt unit in the force.
He finally wrote to the Commissioner-General of Police’s office highlighting the corruption in the police service.
When basic functions of law and order are compromised by corrupt practices within a police force, the State cannot legitimately prevent and punish violations of the law or protect human rights (Pyman et al. 2012).
Police corruption compromises the institutional integrity of a policing system and undermines its legitimacy.
For Zimbabweans to respect the law, they must have trust and confidence that the police force is adhering to the law in general, and that, in applying the law, they treat people equally.
Police authorities should know that a serious result of police corruption is the weakening of ethical standards in society.
If the general public starts perceiving the police to be benefiting from acts of corruption, this could lower their own moral standards and make them more willing to engage in criminal behaviour.
The level of corruption in the police, as demonstrated by the Borrowdale case, is capable of damaging the State’s international reputation at a time President Mnangagwa is embarking on a massive re-engagement programme in a bid to turn around the country’s economy.
Apologists for such police corruption may say the blame must not be directed towards the whole police force for the wrongs of a few rotten apples. However, it should be known that rotten apples definitely spoil the barrel.
It is imperative to note that corruption is contagious, and that crooked cops create misconduct networks that initiate new officers into corrupt ways.
Efforts must be made by senior police officers to set up structures that will fight corruption from within. There should be clearly set down rules that address corruption in the force and those who break the law must be sent to jail to deter would-be offenders.
There is need for police authorities to pay attention to external oversight and governance, if they want to deal with corruption in the force.
To address this vice, there is need to create police oversight institutions that will take concrete steps to address corruption in a way that produces dire consequences for perpetrators, encourage ethical behaviour, and restores trust in the police.
On the other hand, political will from leaders is crucial to support the oversight bodies with sufficient resources for them to be able to curb colossal corruption in the police force.
Members of the public also need to know their rights as it will allow them to be assertive against perversions of due process.
Eventually, the hope is that the oversight bodies will trigger renewed outrage and influence critical action against corruption in the police force following such incidents.
There is need to device a long-term approach in containing police corruption.
While short-term tactics are at times appropriate for specific instances of misconduct, such as the arrest of the 11 officers, a successful struggle against corruption requires an ongoing strategy of socialisation and vigilance.
Additionally, the intricate nature of policing means that the issue of ethics is central to corruption control and placing ethical inspection at the heart of recruitment and selection procedures and within in-service training is vital to the development of a policing culture that is intolerant to corruption.
In Zimbabwe, there has been very little involvement of civilian groups or civil society organisations in police corruption reform.
This means there is an urgent need for civil society to concentrate their efforts in ending police corruption and coming up with ways of contributing to stimulating and monitoring police anti-corruption efforts.
In the past, civil society has played a key role in raising awareness of corruption scandals and driving reform.
The media can also play an important role in police reform efforts by raising alarm whenever such incidents occur or are likely to occur.
Above all, external accountability mechanisms such as human rights commissions, citizen complaint and review boards and police auditors are important instruments that can help to end corruption in the police force.