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Upholding the law

Nov 01,2017 - Last updated at Nov 01,2017

In a clear demonstration of the will of the police to uphold the law and enforce it upon its own force as well, the Police Court on Monday sentenced three police officers to prison terms ranging from two months to one year for dereliction of duties in connection with the riots that occurred at Swaqa Correctional and Rehabilitation Centre last September, in which several inmates were seriously injured.

Thirteen law enforcement officers had been charged with smuggling illegal substances to inmates in return for cash; of these, 10 were acquitted.

The court verdict will have to be reviewed by the Court of Cassation within 30 days before it is enforced.

The government’s coordinator for human rights hailed the court’s decision, which, he said, is evidence that authorities are serious about upholding the law and proves “that no one is immune from punishment”, while also being “a clear sign that the Public Security Department (PSD) represented by the Police Court will not tolerate any wrongdoing by any of its personnel”.

Of course, mistreatment of any individual, inmate or not, must not be allowed to happen, and the court sent a stern warning in that regard.

Its verdict, the coordinator also rightly said, is bound to “improve the police procedures in the future, including the recent measures that were adopted by the PSD to tackle individual mistakes in the most transparent and professional manner”.

Still, it is going to take more than sporadic court decisions to upgrade police behaviour and conduct with the public, whether in jails or detention centres, at police stations or in the street.

Curricula at police academies should include — probably they already do — teaching how to protect and serve the public in a human, respectful and lawful manner.

Police conduct sets the tone and is an example for citizens.

To that effect, the culture of courteous police officers should be inculcated gradually until it becomes habit. Till then, verdicts like the one issued by the Police Court might be just the start and are needed.

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