It is that day when you’ve been invited by the police, or the Directorate of Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC), for an interview. No, not a job interview.
Your worst nightmare. You may, in fact, be trembling before an unsmiling investigator in some windowless law enforcement chamber, chained hand and foot. Just what do you do?
I consult almost daily, over the best approach to adopt in order to reduce the risk of self-incrimination. The best approach of course, is to stay away from crime and anything that looks like it.
That way, you hardly have to worry about a call. I mean one you can’t handle. But then, you can just as well be wrongly as you can be rightly implicated in a crime. You don’t have to be a bad guy. You just have to be the wrong person, at the wrong place, the wrong time.
Law enforcement officers may approach you as a suspect or as a potential witness to assist with their investigations.
They may approach you as an expert or simply, to assist with an arrest. By the way, every adult male citizen is, in the absence of reasonable excuse, legally bound to assist the police with an arrest when called upon to do so. A refusal constitutes an offence. Don’t say I didn’t tell you. The statutory duty does not extend to women. I am not complaining, my dear sisters and mothers.
Whatever the police approach you for, it is important, firstly, to determine your position relative to the investigation.
Speaking from a position of ignorance can be dangerous.
When you come to your senses you may be in the slammer with access to neither Twitter nor Facebook. It is better to seal your lips until you really know what is going on. Insist on making a statement after you have consulted a lawyer.
Unfortunately, two reactions are common. Firstly, hostility; secondly panic, followed by verbal diarrhea. There is no need to be hostile. The officers are only doing their job. It is enough to assert your rights firmly and politely. In the event that you meet a rude cop - and they are many- just assert your right to silence.
Do not insult back. Whatever you elect to do, let police work go unimpeded to the extent that it does not require your participation. Obstruction of law enforcement officers in the conduct of their duties constitutes a criminal offence. Respect of law enforcement officers is important for your own safety and that of your property.
The most common reaction is panic. If you know you’ve done wrong, expect the cops. You live by the sword, you die by the sword. It is just a question of time.
As the saying goes, there are many
An arrest, without more, can strike terror in the bravest heart. Most people are law abiding and police trouble is something the best part of us are unused to.
Yet, the first moments of being approached by law enforcement officers are as important for you as they are for them. Many have hanged purely because they talked too much. Cops tell you to confess, then they give you to prison officers to hang you. I mean, literally.
In early days, the evidence is still fresh, the scene of crime is new, witnesses are generally in the same locality and memories are still fresh with the subject of the investigation. There is, understandably, a headlong rush by law enforcement to make investigative mileage. In that desperation, unlawful methods of investigation are sometimes invoked.
Suspects are threatened, intimidated and tortured. Yes, torture still exists in Botswana. In the event of torture, just fight back. Physically. It’s a free country.
You have a right to self defence. Refuse to undress or to be tied up. Fight back until you are injured. That’s the only way you will come out with evidence of the atrocity. Otherwise, you are doomed.
It is stupid to think that the police could act in your interest as a suspect. They act in the interest of the wider society that you are suspected to have offended.
And often, they act under intense pressure. Ignore the suggestion that if you give a particular account the magistrate will look at you with favour or that if you confess you will get a suspended sentence. No one has the prophetic foresight to say what the magistrate will or will not do.
The fact is, you are in no good position to make decisions. You are in a state of panic and you run the risk of self-incrimination. Enter the police cell if you have to. Rather spend a few days in a dirty cell with a handful of illegal immigrants rounded up for the crime of seeking a piece-job than spend eternity in jail with red eyed men with lubricants in hand.
My point is that you have a right to remain silent when confronted by police. It is for the police to investigate the case against you. You have no duty to help them do so. Succumbing to intimidation, threat and promises is suicidal. I only speak of the nation’s laws, not mine. Apology accepted.