“When I grow up I want to be a policeman,” that was me some 15 years ago, I still wonder why my mother didn’t smack me in the face for saying that. After watching the action packed TV show Sirens, we all wanted to be police officers. We wanted to carry pistols on our waists, zoom the streets of Lusaka chasing criminals while screaming the magic words “Freeze” and “Anything you say can and may be used against you in the courts of law.” Oh those were the days when we thought being a police officer was a glamourous life, today we know better it isn’t. And recently it has also become embarrassing too.
I am still trying to imagine the scenes of last week in my head, how I wish I was by the Manda Hill Bridge with my box of popcorn while the scenes unfolded. According to media reports, a man who was believed to have withdrawn some big bucks from the bank was being trailed by some robbers. The man drove to the nearby Manda Hill Police Post hoping to find refuge. He packed his car and locked the doors. Then the robbers boldly smashed the rear view mirror with an axe, while another fired shots at the police station and warned the police officers to stay inside. Amazingly the police obeyed and hid for dear life, leaving the poor man to watch as the robbers sped away with his trunk of money.
Now I know the police have already received their share of flack from the public both from well known individuals such as Dr. Manda to the less prominent bus conductors, so give me a chance to come to their defence here. Of the people condemning the police officers for hiding behind the safety of the police station walls, what did you want them to do? Come out, act the hero and get shot. Here in Zambia if you are a coward you live longer, heroes are not celebrated. Let us bear in mind that these are underpaid civil servants who have families and children. If they died all that they would have got would have been a headline in the Daily Mail, condolences and we would have moved on looking forward to the Zambia v Lesotho game. Their families would have suffered the loss.
Let’s face reality here, the police service in Zambia is underfunded and struggling for its own piece of the pie with the rest of the nations other pressing needs such as education, health, infrastructure and others. We must not compare our stations to the plush police stations we see in the movies, the Manda Hill Police Post is not even a station. You can be excused for thinking it’s a car park. I doubt if at all they had adequate fire arms, bullet proof vests, enough man power, so how on earth did we expect them to go toe to toe with the bandits.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, people are saying that they are busy concentrating on traffic offences and harassing bus drivers, but c’mon all a bus driver needs is a slap to put him back in check. Where is the life threatening risk in that? They will still be able to go back to their families. It is like going to the hospital and blaming the doctor because the clinic did not have the x-ray machine, laboratory testing equipment and medicines. In order for a doctor to perform his functions well the equipment must be made readily available. If he does not perform his duties because the necessary resources are not there that does not make him incompetent.
I bet by now you have heard the joke that the police have now hired Armcor Security to protect them. Well at least we are definitely sure Armcor have the resources to defend themselves. In as much as this is an embarrassing situation for the police, we can at least be thankful that no life was lost. It has also become a wakeup call because it has put the police service in the spotlight, and it has been desperately crying for a makeover. I do agree that the police service could definitely be better and they do certain things right but they cannot be blamed for their short coming when they lack resources to work effectively.