Police and loitering

Police should come out in the open and clearly explain the regulation on loitering because a lot of people have suffered at the hands of some over-zealous law enforcement officers who have been using the outdated law to extract money from unsuspecting residents caught at night.

Director of Public Prosecution Mutembo Nchito has said there was no law that mandated Police to arrest people found loitering at night.

He said the police were overstepping their authority by arresting and charging people who were found moving at night as there was no law in the Constitution which gave them powers to do so.

Mr Nchito said some people worked late in the night hence the need to allow them to move freely unless they were found in a situation suggesting that they were contemplating criminal activities. While it is a well-known fact that the loitering regulation was abolished with the lifting of the curfew soon after the dawn of multi-partyism in 1991, its notorious exercise and enforcement is as alive as it was in the one-party State.

There is nothing wrong with Police being alert to ensure lives of innocent Zambians are protected from criminals but the wanton arrest of people who have an explanation for being found walking in the night is certainly an infringement of their rights.

All those found walking in the night have varied reasons for being on the road and Police should take time to verify their claims.

This has been contrary to what has been brought to the Legal and Justice Sector Reform Commission. People have been picked by Police without allowing them to tell the side of their stories.

It is wrong for Police to always demand that an explanation about why somebody was found walking in the night be offered at a Police station when it can save time doing it on the spot.

This injustice by the Police for suspects to explain themselves at Police station has made innocent Zambians to search their pocket in an effort to oil the officers as they would not want to be inconvenienced.

The Police cannot swear that a large share of the night generated cash does not find itself in their pockets.

As a matter of fact, police have made their night patrols as their Automatic Tailor Machines (ATMs) where they would easily ‘withdraw’ cash from their victims.

It is such kind of acts of petty bribery that have made the police to be ranked among the most corrupt in Zambia.

With the DPP’s counsel, we hope that the police will stop harassing citizens found walking in the night and concentrate on genuine crime prevention measures.