Public policing demands a new model

Home Focus Public policing demands a new model

Police officers are piled at police stations around the country. They have no vehicles and each time a crime or incident is reported, the response time is minimum one hour. 

The converse is that crime is rampant under the nose of police. In rural areas and in the commercial farming areas the situation is reaching prohibitive proportions.  Criminals drove into my neighbour’s farm, made a makeshift kraal, brought in the cattle and loaded what they wanted. On my farm, they walked over to my outpost, dismantled my six solar panels, took one of my loose fodder troughs and walked a distance with it before they realised it was too heavy and, left it there. 
By the nature of cases and incidents being reported on social media, the situation is just unbearable.

Public policing has been a challenge ever since independence and problems are not subsiding, as also exacerbated by declining economics, unemployment and perhaps uncontrollable urbanisation. 

But the truth is that our state addresses the problem of public policing with solutions of the first world. If we discount urbanisation, which by its very nature distorts the population configuration, at least 80 percent of our population is rural and survives off the land.

Granted that if you travel out of the established metropolis of Windhoek, other cities have expanded as a result of make-shift population growth points that just spring up all over the place, and makes it difficult even for village/town/city principals to contemplate appropriate habitation planning and management. 

The converse is true, namely that at least 80 percent of the national police force is deployed in cities and towns.
The regular configuration of our contemporary Namibia demands that our policing are modeled differently from the past. Whereas in the past a police station was sufficient for where people could go to report a crime or an infringement, today crime is rampant and there should be no place for the police force at police stations. 

The state and municipal authorities must create police cubicles on street corners manned by police officers in turns, and police officers must patrol the streets 24/7. Today it is difficult for an ordinary old man like me, to walk the streets of Katutura at will without watching your back. And if you plan on a morning stroll around your neighborhood, you need a companion because, anyone can run you over and there goes your wallet and cellphone. This situation is fuelled by the absence of police officers from the streets, who fill police stations and for the most part of the day, they are playing cards because they do not even have cars to patrol or to respond to an urgent life threatening situation.

A few years back Windhoek introduced City Police. Initially it looked promising, but today you cannot tell the difference between the quality of work by City Police and Nampol: All have become as lethargic as the Private security guards, to whom most of the business enterprises and governance institutions are beholden out of despair, in the absence of effective national policing.

When we observe the rural and farming areas we find that their needs with regard to public policing are much different. With the exception of sporadic killings on farmsteads, most of the crime is theft of animals. Syndicates steal cattle and goat stocks on a large scale, and farmers are at pains to find a working formula. When cattle stocks are stolen and loaded away, it becomes difficult to trace because they travel distances away. Or sold on organized permits. When some old lady’s goat is stolen and they are able to find traces, they cannot track to the homestead of the would be thieves out of fear of what could happen to them and police would not be reliable because either police have no vehicles or the only vehicle has taken prisoners from the Plessis Plaas prison to court in Gobabis.  It is a sad case.

We need a different model of policing. In cities we need to develop the cubicle model at street corners where police reports and go out to patrol the streets on foot or on bicycles. In the rural areas we need to consider policing by mounted police. It is not a tenable proposition for one police vehicle to be assigned to an area with the radius of 100 kilometers and still provide effective service, while it has to travel to the city intermittently. We must develop a policing system where police recruits are required to have horse-riding skills or ready to be skilled. This will also create an added incentive for the police establishment to recruit police officers from rural areas where they will find people with such skills, instead of transferring officers from far off areas whose orientation is to provide policing in cities, thus attempting to provide rural policing with city management systems.

The alternative to dealing with these challenges is for communities if they feel left to their devices, to create their own vigilante groups, which in themselves can be unpredictable in many ways. For they can degenerate into serious community policing structures that can even be pitted against police, as we know it today. Remember Epango of Omaheke, a good 28 years back. These were the strong men of Omaheke and during their reign, theft in Omaheke was under control. Then skirmishes ensued with ordinary police and the traditional leaders felt that Epango must be suspended in the national interest.