That the fourth phase government is failing to control the actions of the police force, not in the final months of the presidency of Jakaya Kikwete but in the middle of his second term speaks a lot for the crisis in the governance context.
Doing something about the police force was underlined by incoming president Benjamin Mkapa late 1995 when he retired in the public interest the top cadre of the police force, and when he was leaving office, the force was in a shambles. Erstwhile Inspector General Omar Mahita left in a sort of hurry into retirement, but it is evident that old habits die hard – in the police force.
Reports that all is not well in the police force have been piling up, not only because on the basis of the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau (PCCB) it is the most corrupt government agency – or simply public institution – in the country.
People take the law in their own hands, enforcing outmoded customs of tribal circumcision by public humiliation and in certain cases killing of Maasai youths who resist the ritual and opt to have it performed under hospital conditions, for the reason that the police can’t intervene. One must put up a case against an individual, and also pay the police for arrestation costs.
There was a time that everyone knew of the presence of ‘askari kanzu,’ that is police officers in civilian clothes whose job is to mingle with people and hear what was taking place, to get leads and pointers to criminal activities.
During the second phase under Augustine Mrema and then the third phase the police started innovating an ‘opinion poll’ in a certain area to find out criminals, a method that put people’s lives in danger as it was easy for the criminals to learn who mentioned their names. It was increasingly apparent that networks of crime are beefed up by police officers, adding impunity to criminality.
Changing forms of behaviour in the police force is comparable to doctors, from the Hippocratic Oath to the general strike, something virtually unimaginable in terms of medical ethics.
The reason is that there are enclaves of restlessness in the public service that some are benefiting from uneven hands of distribution of favours in public duty, in which case laxity is extended to the police in the conduct of their duties, so that they don’t excessively raise their voices in protest at poor remuneration.
When governments in Africa fail to pay their armies – and can’t retrench, they allow them to live by their guns.
When police are allowed to extort as a matter of routine, it doesn’t take time before they join crime networks, and then it is quite a problem to disentangle them from there.
A writer was mentioning in a weekend newspaper that many of the new recruits in the past decade are drawn from ‘police lines,’ that is, sons and some daughters of former officers, in which case they are too much at home to fear the government. When the ‘community police’ method is introduced, it formalizes abdication of the police from investigations.
One significant adaptive method that the third phase administration took up in relation to rising demands for better pay and conditions (especially housing) from the police force was to delegate appointments, promotions to the institution itself.
This led to autonomy of work to the highest degree, and facilitated plenty of what isn’t right in the police force – as no consequences can be feared, like being expelled from the force and prosecuted as a civilian. When ex-regional crimes officer Abdallah Zombe was ensnared in purposeful shooting of miners with millions in a bag, he was sent away from Dar to a plum RPC job.
It is hard to see how the government withdraws this leverage that the police have on their kith and kin, now that they are becoming a tribe unto themselves, recruited with peer mention and ‘knowledgeable’ of the ‘ways of the police,’ etc.
Certain observers made a point of consternation at the velvet glove with which President Jakaya Kikwete treated the issues in meeting top police officers especially after the Songea event, where the RPC there was scornful, noting mildly that the killings arose from ‘marital envies’ of sorts. It means that the RPC was interested less in arresting killers than ‘counseling’ the society.
Not that it is overly difficult to see how such ‘counseling’ rimes particularly well with the idea of a ‘community police,’ in which case police actions aren’t examined professionally and in conformity with Police Force Regulations, but socially, as part of the community.
It is as if two siblings are quarreling, and the parent (the father, for instance) can only point out to their different behaviors since childhood, since he can’t call the police to arrest either of his sons. And at the same time this attitude matches with what is expected of senior police offices in the TANU Guidelines that they shouldn’t be ‘commandeering.’
This element is en example of what distinguishes the law from culture when it comes to explaining institutional conduct or behavior, for there is nothing in the structure of the police force that leads to a gradual desisting from enforcement of ethics.
But there is a ‘bug’ in the conscience of the force, as an aspect of the public, to resolve its problems by following a ‘line of least resistance,’ which in this case is to let things go on the basis of consensus, as set out in the famous Clause 15 of the TANU Guidelines.
When officers exercise overly indulgent attitudes on subordinates and the president leaves the force to the IGP, and police officers task the public to investigate and report criminals, all is absolutely fine.
This way of doing things becomes easiest for society generally despite the pains that are likely to accompany it because the public on the whole likes an indulgent or ‘predictable’ police where it is clear how much money can get one out of trouble.
It is also clear how much money can enable one’s suspect or culprit to be arrested, in which case societal pressures will determine what sort of legal infringements will be reported and paid for – in which case arrests and prosecutions made – and which will go unnoticed.
There is in a paradoxical manner an ‘equal opportunities’ sort of environment, that so long as one actually provides the police with a suspect’s name, and pays for costs, arrests will follow.
That may not be the most meritorious way of doing things, but it still permits a breadth of satisfaction as those who will take the trouble to report will have their (paid for) cases worked upon, and those who will not take such trouble will blame nobody for inaction.
While some may say that this is a devious way of formalizing corruption in the police force, something which it is possible PCCB director general Dr Edward Hosea had in mind in listing the police as singularly the most corrupt institution, the reality is a bit more complex.
Practically all government departments, ministerial authorities and public firms have what are being touted as ‘client service charters’ though as a matter of fact they are concluded not with clients but with the government – to justify their budgets and autonomy from parent ministries. Why wouldn’t the police have a similar charter as well?
Embedded in the notion of a ‘client service charter’ is the idea of a customer or client visiting a public institution – the root of all errors, as it were – since public institutions cannot be provided with charters similar to commercial enterprises, which are locked in competition.
Public institutions are on the contrary constituted as monopolies of state action where each official is entrusted not just with the confidence but even with the conscience of state institutions as such.
The idea that such persons are governed by a code of conduct based on commercial values, of satisfying the specific person who is seeking services on the counter, and not a moral code reflecting both state authority and moral responsibility is incomprehensible.
The idea that such persons are governed by a code of conduct based on commercial values, of satisfying the specific person who is seeking services on the counter, and not a moral code reflecting both state authority and moral responsibility is incomprehensible.But for some reason this outlook has been enshrined in public institutions, and the moral rot is there to be seen in the systematic leakage of exams or stealing of results, MPs demanding 300,000/- daily allowances due to the ’cost of living,’ doctors striking to demand 7m/- starting monthly salary to treat the poorest of the poor, top officials riding 200m/- vehicles and even higher amidst grinding poverty, permanent secretaries adding ‘zeroes’ to per diems and milking the difference