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The Police in Malawi is a security government institution responsible for maintaining peace, law and public order. They are stakeholders in the criminal justice system. Its establishment is empowered by the Malawi Constitution under section 153(1) which states that “there shall be an independent organ of the Executive which shall be there to provide for the protection of public safety and the rights of persons in Malawi according to the prescriptions of this constitution and any other law”.
This essay, shall explain the challenges in Security Sector Reform that Malawi Police encounters with in its Endeavour to reform the Police. The essence of expressing the challenges is that there must be possible ways suggested to address them. The essay shall start by defining Security Sector Reform, Police Reform, shall also explain the challenges and the possible ways of addressing them and shall finalize by a conclusion.
Security Sector Reform: Security Sector Reform refers to “the process through which a country seeks to review and enhance the effectiveness and the accountability of its security and justice providers”.
Police Reform: According to Tara Denham, (2008, p.7.), Police Reform is “the transformation or change of a police organization into a professional and accountable police service practicing a style of policing that is responsive to the needs of local communities”.
Police in Malawi is being transforming since 1997 when it changed its name from Malawi Police Force to Malawi Police Service. Since then it has been abiding human rights following a Principle of democracy. However, its reform is gradual and has got several challenges. Some of the challenges are: Interlocutors, Political interference, limited Police “foot prints”, corruption and nepotism, negative perceptions of the Police, and finally, poor use of existing resources.
Interlocutors: According to ISSAT, (2012, p.36.), interlocutors are the stakeholders to engage in the same objective of Police Reform. The stakeholders include the Judicial system, the Malawi Prison and some Non-Governmental Organizations who are Human Rights activists and Police itself inclusive.
Non-Governmental organizations only come in a program of Police Reform when they have money. Once their money is finished, they freeze from the objective of Police Reform.
The Judicial system is a spoiler in Police Reform in a sense that the courts impose custodial sentences to offenders of minor offences instead of ordering alternative sentences like community service work, warnings, and suspended sentences. Again, the courts do not enhance a forty-eight-hour rule. According to section 42 (2) (b) of the Malawi constitution, it states that “every arrested person suspected to have committed an offence must be brought to court before an expiration of forty-eight hours”.
On section 42 (2) (e) of same Malawi Constitution further states that “failure in bringing the suspect before court before forty-eight hours’ elapse, the courts shall release the suspect with bail or without bail unless the interest of justice requires otherwise”. Most Courts does not implement this rule there by not observing the significance of a forty-eight-hour rule. On the same note, Police investigators deny a right for the suspected persons to appear before court of law within forty-eight hours’ period by delaying the investigations. This challenge can be addressed by organizing an inspectorate team which shall be visiting police cells and see to it that every suspect is brought to court within a period of forty-eight hours.
Another challenge in the Police Reform is Political interference in Police operations. Police in Malawi is under the control of civilian elites like the Minister of Home Affairs and internal security and not excluding the commander in chief of armed forces who is the state president. Senior management team in Police service is changed after each General Election, for example; since the advent of multiparty in 1994, eight Inspector Generals of Police were appointed.
This deteriorates the independency of the service and the morale of an organization since operational activities shall be under the influence of the Political elites for example: in the month of June, 2018, Police in Blantyre were ordered by the Democratic Progressive Party Political elites to disperse the crowd gathered on Sadiki Miah’s mass rally. In response, the Police dispersed all crowd by throwing tear gas. This is a great challenge in police reform because the act that was displayed by the Police violated a constitutional right of freedom of association. Again, the act, denies democracy which is associated with human rights and multiparty practice.
Political interference in police reform also come in when the Politicians send their relatives for recruitment. Undesirable people who have no interest in the job are recruited under the influence of the political elites as a result they are the same people who resists change in police reform. Again, the political elites have an influence in making their relatives accelerate in job ladders through promotion by just ordering an Inspector General of Police. Most of the time, people promoted in this way have no capacity to lead and manage their junior ranks as a result they are the police officers who resist change in the police reform.
This problem can be addressed by formulating an independent police commission made up of renowned figures who are liable for managing the recruitment, promotion, discipline, and other personal issues.
Limited Police “foot print” is another challenge in Malawian Police reform. According to OECD, (2007, P.174.), limited police foot prints refers to limited presence of police in many areas. In Malawi, most rural areas have no police units. People travel a distant place to find police. This, makes a lot of people in the rural areas where there is no police unit remain with their cases un reported.
Even though a victim can sacrifice his transport to report the matter at Police, it takes long for the police to arrest the suspect and sometimes the suspect is never arrested. This is so because the police in Malawi has insufficient vehicles and sometimes a vehicle can be present but surprisingly you are told that there is no fuel. Insufficient funding from the Government provided to Police, makes police have difficulties in visiting distant remote areas regularly as a result, crime rate increases in the areas not attainable by the Police.
The limited resources available tend to be concentrated in urban areas of Blantyre, Lilongwe, Mzuzu, Zomba just to mention a few. Rural areas often lack police coverage. This problem can be addressed by developing innovative ways of providing security in rural areas like developing community based policing partnerships.
Corruption and nepotism is another challenge in the Malawi police reform. Corruption betrays justice in the sense that one who gets corrupted lacks professionalism and gets biased, as a result, only poor people are jailed while reach people are left free despite having committed a serious offence. According to Andrew Goldsmith, 2005, “corruption poses absence of public trust in police and without public trust in police, the public safety suffers”.
Again, corruption brings in negative perception of the police. Due to the negative perception that Malawians have towards their police, many police stations have been looted and set ablaze for example: in 2016, a police unit at Chilomoni was set on fire due to the fact that the police stopped the public from killing a murder suspect who was already in cell by then. The community wanted to take the law in their hands by killing the murder suspect basing on an argument that the accused shall soon be seen amongst the community after being granted bail.
Bail for murder suspects is granted by the high court and not by police but because of mistrust and the negative perception people have towards police, they criticize police having not helped them for releasing a murder suspect on bail not knowing that the High court grants bails to murder suspects. Corruption can be addressed by creating initiatives to help improve the financing of the police so that the police officers can get a reasonable remuneration package. On the other hand, negative perception of the police can be addressed by conducting public outreach and communication work to win over the doubtful public and instilling in them confidence and justice.
According to OECD, (2007), has expressed poor use of existing resources on an angle of referring it to as human resource. Many police officers in Malawi are deployed to walk with and defend the Ministers so that each Minster has his own police officer to protect him. Besides that, every Minister is being guarded by another police officer every night. This deployment is a wastage of human resource. Private security companies could have been hired to fill these guard duties posts so that police officers could be assigned operational patrol duties that are required of them.
Likewise, some sections like catering, and building, currently occupied by police officers, could have been operated by civilians there by leaving qualified police officers to conduct patrol duties as it is required of them. Again human resource is misused in the Malawi Police Service by not allowing those police officers who have graduated in various universities of Malawi to take part in decision making. They are side lined considering that they are juniors as result there is lack of technical skills and expertise which could have helped in police reform.
In summary, interlocutors (stakeholders), Political interference in police operations, limited police foot prints, corruption, and nepotism are the major challenges in police reform in Malawi. These challenges can be solved in the following ways: interlocutors can be addressed by organizing an inspectorate team to be visiting the police cells with an aim of enforcing forty-eight-hour rule. Limited police “footprints” can be addressed by formulating an independent police commission for managing recruitment, promotion, and discipline.
Corruption and nepotism can be addressed y developing innovative ways of providing security to rural areas like developing community based partnership. Poor use of existing resources can be addressed by increasing remuneration package of police officers and conduct public outreach and communication work to win over the loss of trust in the public and instilling in them confidence and legitimacy.
Poor use of existing resources can be addressed by engaging civilians to guard in the Ministers’ houses and releasing police officers in those posts to conduct patrols and other police work like investigations and arrests of culprits. Again, engaging newly graduated police officers in managerial decision making would address the problem. Police reform helps police officers to work with professionalism, accountability, transparency, and due respect of human rights.
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