Lusaka Province Police Commissioner Nelson Phiri says police officers wear masks for fun because they love their job.
But Choma UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa says there is no justification for a police officer to wear a mask while on duty adding that cops are also supposed to have name tags at all times in order to be viewed as service providers by the public.
Last week, News Diggers wrote an editorial condemning the fast growing trend of police officers wearing masks to disguise their identities whenever they are conducting their duties.
But in an interview, Monday, Phiri said he had never seen any police officer wearing masks because it was not part of their uniform but hastened to add that the cops were just having fun.
“I have never seen one [officer wearing a mask], it is just fun they are having. They love their job. But anyway, if I find some of them doing that, definitely I will stop them because that is not part of the uniform,” said Phiri.
But Mweetwa, who was once a police officer, said Zambia was not at war to have masked police officers.
“This introduction of masks…and I think these masks are bought from Soweto market, because I was a police man myself. The Zambia Police doesn’t provide any mask. It is not part of the uniform. And when you are dressed in a police uniform, it is prescribed by law. And therefore, when an officer is not properly dressed, he is not supposed to report for duty. It is distorting the identity of police officers who are supposed to be known when carrying out their duties. Because they are here to provide a service for which transparency is at the core of their service. What justification do they have to wear masks? We are not at war. The only contemplation one can have is that those who are wearing masks don’t want be to be identified so that when they commit acts of the violation of the law such as police brutality, they should not be identified. Or they could be wearing masks because they do not agree with what they are being asked [to do], to brutalize people. At parliament, we also love our jobs, there is no way we can begin to wear masks for fun. They are duty bound to remind themselves that police have to dress in a particular way,” said Mweetwa.
“The Zambia Police Service introduced name tags on police uniforms by way of having the name embroiled on the uniform of the police officer so that when a member of the public is interacting with a particular police officer who should be viewed as the service provider, they are able to link the face to a name. And therefore, that was important in the promotion of accountability by the police so that whichever police is going to be involved in acts that dent the image of the police, then a member of the public is able identify the officer by name. We are yet to debate in parliament when we debate Zambia Police so that I put them in a proper position where they need to be. That promotion of transparency is meant for the police to be more of a service provider to the community and not a militaristic organization.”