Yes, crime doesn’t pay, but justice must prevail

27May 2020
Dar es Salaam
The Guardian
Yes, crime doesn’t pay, but justice must prevail

DAR ES SALAAM police on patrol have reported having killed seven suspected bandits, in the process also seizing a pistol with three bullets.

According to the Dar es Salaam Special Police Zone Commander, Lazaro Mambosasa, the incident occurred early on Monday when suspected criminals attempted to force their way into a warehouse at Mwenge in Kinondoni District.

Apparently, the presumed criminals walked into a trap as officers from a special police task force were there already, assigned after the unit was earlier tipped off on the planned invasion at the warehouse.

In situations of this sort one doesn’t have to tally all the details and picture how the incident took place because, on the whole, there is a contention between law enforcers and those holding the law in contempt.

Normally, no one is carted to a place and then suddenly suspected to be a bandit. Rather, when a trap is laid and one walks into it, there is little pain about details.

There is a maxim in constitutional law that the law is derived from the people and, as everyone is presumed to know, people in the streets don’t tolerate bandits – a particularly when one is caught red-handed.

The punishment for the wrongdoer, which derives from tradition that earlier governed religious norms, is death, which is harsh but is what tradition provides for.

In constitutionally ruled culture that is called modernity such people are arrested and taken to court, for some people “to face the wrath of the law”.

There is a reason for bandits to find the circumstances more complicated in carrying out their armed contempt of both the law and the rest of society. It is the change from a situation where they would be put in remand prison, and are soon bailed if they were not armed or if they caused no deaths.

Chances of police officers entering some form of contract with criminals get much fewer when such action could imperil the officers’ own jobs and tarnish their public image.

There is also always a tendency to panic when one sees the police closing in and soon imagining that they can shoot their way out without notice.

With the number of informal sector activities having narrowed down somewhat, this including chances of easy cash for ‘mission town’ sort of jobs, everyone wishes to keep his or her job.

Hopefully, confirmed criminals now have fewer gullible police offers or magistrates to talk to once they are apprehended, and if they put themselves in the firing line, they ought to know what comes next.

In the final analysis, equity – though not the law – provides that whoever lifts a gun (like the pistol the zonal commander showed in illustration) to go and obtain cash is ready to kill.

Implicitly, such a person is also ready to be killed.

That is essentially what may happen when one lifts a gun and goes off to ‘hunt,’ whether actually holding the firearm or as an accomplice.

But there is also the need for law-enforcers to act most professionally, including by exercising maximum caution before actually pulling the trigger. Our hope is that this is indeed always the case in circumstances of this nature.

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