For an institution that works to protect the people, one would have expected the Malawi Police Service to be a darling of the masses by earning their trust.
But the reality on the ground is different. The police do not seem to enjoy the trust of the people they are supposed to work with and protect.
Findings of a recent Afrobarometer survey attest to this as they show that many Malawians do not trust the police as an institution and its officers as individuals. The respondents cited unprofessional conduct, including demanding bribes to “assist” the citizens as some of the factors waning public trust. Precisely, the survey said “fewer than three in 10” Malawians think the police usually operate in a professional manner and respect human rights.
These findings are not new. Police have always been painted in bad light on corruption perceptions and professional conduct.
It is soothing to learn from Inspector General of Police Merlyne Yolamu and her predecessor Rodney Jose that the service strives to be professional and reclaim public trust, but there are “bad apples” frustrating the efforts.
Police generally work with the community all over the world and policing is built on trust such that any loss of the same is detrimental to its operations and effective service delivery. There have been investments made towards reforming the police from a “force”
it used to be during the single-party era between 1964 and 1994 to a “service”. However, it would appear what changed was just the name, not the conduct.
It is encouraging to learn from the IG and her predecessor that police management does its best to effect change, but we would like to implore them to do more. The bad apples should be smoked out of the service.
Policing is a game of trust and the persistent negative ratings do not help matters. Police should build and earn the trust of the public.