Last week, police in North Western Province announced that they were investigating several cases in which fellow police officers were arrested for various offences. In Chavuma district, a sergeant was arrested for drinking on duty and losing his gun after getting intoxicated. In Ikelenge, another officer was arrested for losing a firearm magazine with 30 rounds of ammunition, while a Constable in Kabompo was charged for slapping a 13-year-old schoolgirl.
But what shocked the public is a case where an officer at Kasempa Police Station took nude pictures of female detainees who were in custody for murder. We are told that the nude photograph victims, a mother and her daughter, were moved in the night and taken into a private room, one by one where they were ordered to undress before the pornographic material was made.
According to Provincial Police Commissioner Auxensio Daka, the officer identified as Constable Kalebwe convinced the suspects by telling them that the Zambia Police Service Headquarters in Lusaka requested for the nude photos as part of police procedure; and they obeyed his orders.
“On 7th November, 2017 at around 21:30 hours at Kasempa Police Station, officer No. 43948 Constable Kalebwe, was alone at the inquiries office due to the fact that most officers were out for special duties. The officer decided to take nude pictures of two female suspects namely Grace Sitampa (mother) and Dyness Sitampa (daughter). He took them out of the cell to a private room where he told them that as per procedure, he needed to photograph them whilst naked. He told them the pictures were needed at the Police Service Headquarters and the suspects believed him and removed clothes. Then he proceeded to get pictures using his mobile phone,” Commissioner Daka narrated.
Despite the fact that this story is heartbreaking, there is a positive development within it. The public has been made to learn about these crimes because the police command in North Western Province is working. Not just working, but working very hard! We know how hard it is to expose the crimes committed by people you work with. In many cases, workmates always try to cover up for the wrong deeds of their colleagues until the matter dies a natural death.
This also happens at the highest level among the most influential and powerful people in society. That is why you will never hear that a judge has been reported to police by another judge for taking a bribe. It never occurs; but these crimes happen all the time.
In the Zambia Police, we know for a fact that such crimes are common among officers. Previous investigations have revealed shocking facts about the conduct of some senior police officers. We can speak with confidence that some police officers are involved in drug dealing. These high-ranking police officers operate as though they are undercover operatives; so they use police guns and visibly marked police cars in their illegal operations. Sometimes our officers professionally come across crimes which they were not initially involved in, but once they seize exhibits in form of drugs or money, they kill the case by deliberately letting the suspect escape while they hold on to the evidence which they either use or sell on the black market.
This practice is well known among senior police officers and there is a wide network of criminals who use state facilities to commit crimes. That is why you see a rise in cases such as Mukula smuggling, but the police are not eager to arrest the perpetrators. They know that these smugglers are not operating alone – smooth criminals in police uniforms are involved, working closely with bandits who drive big cars with the national flag.
It is not only senior police officers who are in the habit of benefiting from crimes; we have received numerous reports from citizens who complain that police officers steal money and personal effects belonging to suspects whom they detain in holding cells. They say officers don’t always record everything that you leave outside as they place you in cells.
This and many similar crimes that we have outlined above don’t get reported because police officers protect one another. The police command believes that publicizing such cases against their own, dents the image if the service.
But Commissioner Daka has demonstrated good workmanship and deserves the praise of all patriotic Zambians. Daka had the power to sweep these cases under the carpet because they involve his fellow police officers in North Western Province, but he knew that a crime is a crime regardless of the person who commits it.
It seems the Police Commissioners who are based in remote provinces are working harder than our sulking Police Commissioner in Lusaka, who doesn’t even enjoy taking questions from journalists. If it were a police officer in Lusaka who had been reported for taking naked pictures of female detainees, this case would never have been heard of. That is why we are very proud of the work that Commissioner Daka is doing in his area. Those who follow Daka’s statements will attest to the fact that a day hardly passes minus hearing from him making announcements of Mukula seizures, accidents, thefts, warnings about water pollutions, suicides, name it. Daka and his officers are busy dealing with land wrangles and many other non-political cases, which our police officers here in Lusaka are preoccupied with at the expense of combating real crimes.
By issuing a statement and naming the officers who were arrested for committing crimes, Commissioner Daka has won the hearts of many citizens who he is serving. There is a high likelihood that Constable Kalebwe (and others perhaps) had been doing this for a long time – ordering female suspects to undress while they take photos, and God knows what else they were doing with these vulnerable women. But following Daka’s statement, the people of North Western Province will not allow to be photographed naked when they are in police detention. They will not be duped into believing that the Zambia Police Headquarters in Lusaka uses naked photos of suspects to investigate cases.
Our appeal therefore, is that the public must be kept informed about how this case of Constable Kalebwe will be dealt with because it paints a very bad picture of our police service. We know that obscene material can be rousing to watch, but we don’t believe that our Inspector General, even if he wanted to, can use inmates’ pornography for his entertainment.