Police mischief: someone needs to account

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This week, we witnessed (once again) what could at best be described as yet another demonstration of mischief and ineptitude of our police. A power outage at one of the textile factories sparked irate workers to stage a brief mini-protest at the Thetsane Industrial estate.

Frustrated at the possibility of losing out on vital income come month end, the workers expressed their exasperation by blockading one of the roads with burning trash.

As usual, trigger-happy policemen responded by shooting – with live fire – at the aggrieved workers, injuring two women and a male street vendor in the process.

This once again brought into question the professionalism of the police and aptitude in riot control, which refers to the measures used by law enforcement, military, or security forces to control, disperse, and arrest people who are involved in a riot, demonstration, or protest.

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If a riot is spontaneous and irrational, actions which cause people to stop and think for a moment (e.g. loud noises or issuing instructions in a calm tone) can be enough to stop it. However, these methods usually fail when there is severe anger with a legitimate cause, or the riot was planned or organized. Riot control personnel have long used less lethal weapons such as batons and whips to disperse crowds and detain rioters. Since the 1980s, riot control officers have also used tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, and electric tasers.

The propensity of the police to indiscriminately violate human rights cannot go unpunished. Somewhere, somehow, someone’s got to pay for these excesses. Basotho deserve better than petty thugs draped in police uniform.