INSPECTOR General of Police Kakoma Kanganja has ordered police officers to operate within the confines of the law as they enforce COVID-19 preventative measures.
But police spokesperson Esther Mwaata Katongo says the use of a truncheon (short baton) and in ensuring that people adhere to the law qualifies as minimum force, and it is not new.
In a statement issued, Monday, Kanganja said he had observed that some officers were using excessive force in conducting their duties.
“The Inspector General of Police, Mr Kakoma Kanganja has advised police officers involved in the enforcement of provisions of Statutory Instrument number 22 which spells out regulations aimed at containing the COVID – 19 to always operate and carry out their duties within the confines of the Law. The Inspector General of Police has observed that some officers have resorted to using excessive force in conducting their duties and has called on supervisors to closely monitor the ongoing operations,” Katongo stated.
“He has guided that Police Officers should always observe the guidelines outlined in relevant pieces of legislation as well as Police Instructions which guide them on how and when to apply minimum force. The Police Chief has however called on members of the public to comply with Presidential directives and regulations that have been put in place aimed at containing the CORONA pandemic saying all those that will be found abrogating the Law will not be spared but will be dealt with as provided by the Law.”
But speaking to ZNBC in an interview earlier, Katongo said whipping citizens with short batons was not new.
“Officers are faced with different situations and to every situation that officers face, they have a different approach to it. For me to be citing incidences especially those that have linked on social media, we are not interested in that; what is important is that officers are working within the mandate; they are working within the provisions of the law. The problem that we have is people who don’t even know the provisions which guide the police as the work will be in the fore front trying to exaggerate the whole situation. For us, we are working with trained police officers who know what measures to be taken at what particular point because they are the ones who are on the ground and they are the ones who are facing the challenges. People shouldn’t just use social media to be posting what is not benefiting them,” Katongo said.
“We are not going to drag our Commander-in-Chief that he has given as extra powers, we are working within the powers that we have as the police. When we use a short baton to enforce the law, it is not new, we have been using that through and through. It is not just we have just started to use the weapon today. We used to make people comply in most situations even when you are apprehending one or two persons, that person is trying to be difficult as you are doing your job, you are mandated as a police officer to use that long baton. So it is not something that is new; it is something that has been there. When you look at the criminal procedure code, it gives police powers to use any reasonable means to see to it that the target becomes complaint.”
She said the use of a short baton was not a form of corporal punishment but an application of minimum force.
“This is where we have a problem when you talk about application of minimum force what do you use? Do you just go there and start talking to people? No, you go there with equipment; which equipment is gazetted for police officers to use? As officers we use the long baton; as officers we can also use tear smoke; as officers we can also use guns, live ammunition. When you look at the current situation, it will be excessive for the police to go there with guns. So, what are they going with? They are going there with short batons and when you look at what they are doing, you will find that these defiant crowds when officers go there they are apprehending and also dispersing, depending on the situation. Because when we say we are going to apprehend everyone, what are we doing to our detention facilities? We want to decongest the facilities and serve those who cannot be bonded,” she said.
Katongo said police would not in any way be apologetic on the matter and vowed to continue using the short baton to ensure that citizens adhered to the presidential directive.