GANJIKI D WAYNE | Supported by the Bea Amaya Writing Fellowship
MULTIPLE REPORTS surface every week of some rogue police activity in our country.
Drivers gets ‘accidentally’ shot in the foot. Arbitrary confiscation (and then consumption) of informal vendors’ property. Theft of wallets and personal property. ‘Fines’ for concocted traffic offences (such as driving too slowly in a car park).
Private armed escort for politicians, foreign businessmen and corrupt bureaucrats. And of course the regular brutal beatings (and sometimes slaying) of innocent citizens and surrendered crime suspects.
It seems endless what abuses our “law-enforcers-slash-disciplined-force” can cook up. More than half of all of the Solicitor General’s defence of claims against the State are police brutality claims.
These are men and women who seem to have lost all moral restraint. There's a vacuum in their mindset and conscience. They lack the ability to put themselves in the shoes of their prey.
They have no concern for their own and their victims’ dignity. Nor for the respectability and the integrity of the office and uniform they occupy. Nor loyalty to their Commissioner (who only last week spoke strongly against such rogue behaviour), the Constabulary, or the Nation.
They have no fear of God. No regard for their code of ethics. How they sleep at night I don’t know. I suspect they drink themselves to sleep; to shut out the voices of conviction that keep ringing in their heads.
They got into the uniform for all the wrong reasons (it’s just bread and butter). These are toddlers in adult bodies.
Worse, the State (we the people) clothed these toddlers with the vicarious authority to pull-up any vehicle or person simply by waving their colours and displaying their arms. And we the people agreed to subject ourselves to their authority. We got more than we bargained for.
Toddlers. Babies. Whose world revolve around "me", they cry for milk you must give. They hunger, you feed. They thirst, you give water. They hurt, you comfort. They freeze, you warm. They soil their diapers, you must clean them up. They cry, you soothe. They take, you give.
That is the nature of infants. Despite adult bodies we lack the emotional intelligence to subject ourselves to codes that should provide restraint. We are a nation of toddlers. And a lot of them wear blue and carry not-toy guns. (A hundred or so sit in parliament accusing each other of wetting their diapers.)
The problem isn’t the training (or lack of) that they get, or a lack of understanding of the law and human rights. That’s a scratch above the surface. The real lack is the loss of moral consciousness.
And so the real challenge is to refill those gaps. The crimes committed are completely identifiable as crimes (theft, assault, unlawful use of firearm, murder), and as blatant evil deeds.
Any sane person should be able to tell that the unlawful use of his authority to steal wallets and personal effects is an immoral deed; an attack on basic human decency; even an undermining of his own human dignity as the perpetrator. But it takes a person of moral strength to resist committing those crimes.
These are men and women who have lost that moral strength. And many involved in talking about social correction wouldn’t want the work that’s needed to restore such a loss. We'd rather not go that deep.
We’d rather a social correction (a fleeting band-aid solution). Or a legal one (guess who will enforce!). Or an academic one (with never-ending papers and opinions). Or a training one (where we try to squeeze a lifetime of lessons into six months!). Or a governmental one (where we assume the Minister can flick his fingers for a solution).
We agree that wrong is wrong. It’s mostly our solutions to those wrongs that take diverging paths.
Maybe they’re frustrated with the meagre pay they get. Perhaps coupled with the pressures of life they’re driven to such measures for survival. It’s understandable. Is it? Lack of training perhaps? Lack of knowledge of human rights?
Ever noticed how our behaviour is little affected by what we know? Ignorance of the law?
Whatever reason we give, we’ll have to settle that ultimately it’s the loss of moral strength in these people’s souls that gives them no pause against such crimes.
And if there is to be any proper solution, it must begin at the core of their moral beliefs. We need to restore that moral strength. Everything else will be band-aid.
I know good cops. But for every good cop I know there’s probably 50 not-so-good cops.
We live in a nation where the sight of an armed policeman or a police land-cruiser with tinted-windows strikes more fear in an ordinary citizen than a lonely drive into a crime-prone suburb.
Recall that crawl up your spine as you approach a tinted cop-car? The source of terror is reversed. No longer is it the local terrorist. It’s the law enforcers who are supposed to catch that terrorist.
Drivers don’t trust police road checks anymore. Victims of crime dismiss the thought of contacting police as they contemplate how vain such an effort would be. Reports to the internal complaints unit might as well be lottery tickets for a zillion kina.
No. A restoration of proper morals is needed. But there are problems with a moral-restoration approach. It’s hard work.
And post-modern philosophy would disagree. Post-modern philosophies that subscribe to an amoral universe would say that we should just fix society and these people will adjust with society. But to fix society you have to fix these people. A catch-22.
We would have to take the discussion all the way back to the nature of morality and who would give such guidance. And there lies our problem.
I could suggest get the Church to counsel these cops. But then the debate will turn to the delusional question of separation of church and State.
And of course people would argue that the Church has obviously failed because these cops probably attend church every week and have gotten nowhere. So let’s leave it at bandaid level.
So you would suggest get the shrinks and mental disorder experts to counsel them. Bring in the social scientists.
Impose the name tags. Name and shame. Step up police discipline. Extend training. Informing human rights. Up their pay. Dock their pay. Demote. Transfer. Recruit smarter people. Remove silly people. Take away the guns. Give them Tramontinas. Take away the vehicles. Give them Landcruisers. Install CCTV everywhere. Bring the Aussies. Bring the Fijians. Send our people to Aussieland. Send them to Fiji. Send them to Iraq. Send them to college. Send them home. Don’t send them at all.
The best solution is usually the hardest.