– ‘Overfull Prisons Are Evidence We’re Able’ By Mbatjiua Ngavirue WINDHOEK Inspector-General of the Namibian Police, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, has denied suggestions that the operational effectiveness of the Namibian Police is in a state of collapse. This comes in the wake of widespread complaints from the public that the Namibian police appear incapable of responding to incidents with the necessary urgency. The most long-standing criticism is that when the public call the police to attend to crime they often give the excuse that they cannot come because there are no vehicles available. Sometimes this leads to situations where victims of crime have to transport the police to the crime scene in their own vehicles. People have pointed out that this could compromise the perceived impartiality of the police if they arrive at a crime scene in the company of one party to a dispute involving two or more people. A complaint that has surfaced more recently is that the Namibian Police claim they cannot attend to a matter because they have no access to telephones. There are reports of police telling members of the public they can only attend to their case if the complainant first buys them a cell phone recharge voucher. The Criminal Investigation Division (CID) is reported to be functioning poorly because of inadequately trained staff and a lack of resources. Failure by detectives to follow proper procedures or sloppy police work sometimes leads to judges or magistrates throwing cases out of court. Generally, there is anecdotal evidence of the best and brightest officers leaving the force because of low pay, inadequate housing and lack of logistical support for the force. A new complaint, specific to Windhoek, is that often when the public report a case the Namibian Police respond that the only assistance they can give is to phone the Windhoek City Police to attend to the matter. This has led to accusations that the Namibian Police in Windhoek seem to have been reduced to no more than a message service for the Windhoek City Police – which seems to do most of the serious crime fighting in the city. In a written response to these complaints, Lieutenant-General Sebastian Ndeitunga acknowledged a few shortcomings in the work of the police, but largely defended the performance of his force. He said that given the magnitude of crime committed in Windhoek in relation to the resources at the disposal of the Namibian Police, there might be some delays in attending to crime scenes. “However, this does not warrant wholesale accusations to say police always excuse themselves of not having vehicles,” he argued. He pointed out that the Namibian Police recently launched its new Emergency Response Unit, with its improved operational equipment and mobility. This, he added, was another step towards augmenting existing units that on a daily basis attend to crime scenes in their police vehicles. These include members who record incidents at crime scenes, members of serious crime units, beat patrols, charge office shift members, detectives and investigators plus others. The police, he said, appreciated and welcomed when members of the public, as part of their civic duty, offered to provide transport for the police when the police are in dire need. “The police will simply do their professional duties with no strings attached to the offer but with impartiality, fairness and transparency under the guide of our police value of transparency in service delivery,” he assured the public. Ndeitunga denied that Telecom Namibia cut off any telephones at police stations due to non-payment. As part of standing operational procedures, Nampol sets credit limits on telephone usage. “If one’s credit limit is exhausted before the next monthly allocation, it should not be construed as if the services were cut off by Telecom as a result of non-payment. We do not have telephones cut off due to non-payments,” he noted. He did not however address the question of police officers cadging cell phone recharge vouchers from members of the public. With regard to the brain drain suffered by Nampol, Ndeitunga pointed out that Namibia is a democratic society in which competitiveness prevails. As such, everyone has the right to look for greener pastures of their choice, with police officers being no exception. “Those who are leaving the force are leaving because they are poorly, or lowly paid compared to other government employees, because all government employees are remunerated according to a laid down salary grading applicable across government,” he said. Ndeitunga further emphasised that the number of applications for vacancies advertised at Nampol far exceeds the number of posts available. He “totally deplored” the criticism that the CID is ineffective, pointing to the overcrowded police cells and prisons around the country as evidence. “It is not that these inmates have surrendered themselves to cells or prisons, but rather due to the full-time activity and commitment of police officers at work, which I expect you to appreciate rather than criticise,” Ndeitunga angrily replied. He acknowledged that police officers might experience difficulties in the execution of their duties due to the high volume of work they are burdened with. “The problem of a shortage of manpower and training cannot be over-emphasised in the wake of a limited budget – it is known and it is being addressed as resources allow,” he explained. He further rejected the allegation that Nampol in Windhoek have been reduced to the role of a message service for the Windhoek City Police. Ndeitunga said Nampol has units on standby day and night, primarily to respond to calls to their 10111 countrywide emergency number. “As far as these arrangements are concerned, they are operational and being used 24 hours around the clock. Obviously, you find them busy working and not messaging,” he responded.