Police roadblocks have become something of a national attraction. Even before the pandemic we all dreaded running into one because there was a good chance that you’d be held up despite having a fire extinguisher, reflector, breakdown triangles, a spare wheel, all signal lights working and all the registration disks displayed and up to date.
During the pandemic, roadblocks were a nightmare even if you had the proper documents to pass. Now this, of course, is on top of reports that some police officers were asking for a little “something” to get someone out of a valid or unsubstantiated jam.
It looks like the govt is finally stepping in to curb the shenanigans that happen at roadblocks and traffic stops. In a report by the Manica Post, Minister for Home Affairs Kazembe Kazembe said that cabinet has approved an integrated ICT system to monitor police officers.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs Integrated ICT System is all about smart policing, which is part of the integrated solution. Police officers at roadblocks will be monitored from the office. When fully implemented, the system will curb corruption at the roadblocks. We will also have computerised crime and traffic management systems. We will have gadgets that will police the police officers”Kazembe Kazembe, Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Minister
The one thing that is frustrating about pronouncements like these is that there is little mention of how this is going to be implemented or what kind of technology is going to be used.
It’s all well and good to say that the government is thinking about doing this but an assessment of the methods that will be employed would be extremely helpful for the public.
An example of this is the body cameras that some United States Police Officers are required to wear in some states. There have been reports that some officers simply switch off these cameras. More so, if this was the route that Zimbabwe is taking what markers should the ordinary Zimbabwean look for to see that the equipment that is meant to police the police is active.
How wide spread is this tech going to be?
Zimbabwe is strapped for cash and roadblock or police monitoring systems aren’t cheap in relation to some of the major problems yet to be solved in the country.
If the government is indeed dead set on this then it will have to make these systems and the supporting tech available to every outpost countrywide. If not then the underserved areas being a hotbed for corruption.
In saying all of that, the tech has to come with some serious training and accountability. It makes little sense to deploy something if the police aren’t versed in how to use it and more importantly if the public is not made aware of what the devices look like and how to ask if the systems are, as previously mentioned, working if or when this comes into effect.
Will this actually work?
The government has tried in the past to end Police corruption. If you remember last year the govt said that it was rolling out Point of Sale (POS) machines at traffic stops and in stations.
This measure was brought about by reports that some officers were asking for cash either as bribes or to pay for a violation. The concern then was that even if the charges were real some of that money wasn’t getting to where it is supposed to be. If the govt is adding yet another layer, it could suggest that this measure was ineffective.
In this case, and if we are to use the example of body cameras, electronic monitoring might not be effective. Evidence to this was brought to light in a report by the Pew Trust.
Body cameras didn’t bring about the transparency that the US public thought they would. The biggest problem is accessing the video after making a report of misconduct, the process is reportedly filled with a number of barriers. Worse still the police department may even withhold or redact the footage being used in an investigation.
If the United States with its capacity is finding issues with monitoring police electronically, then what hope does Zimbabwe have in addressing the problems that will come regardless of what monitoring system is employed?