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Kapinga defends police shootings

Staff Writer
Human rights activists have expressed concern about the number of cases in which the police have shot suspected criminals to death. But the deputy Commissioner of Police, Kenny Kapinga, said it could only be alarming when the police start shooting chicken thieves and pickpockets instead of armed criminals.

He insisted that in cases of armed criminals, the police return fire when shot at.
In a recent  shooting  incident  in Serowe,  police shot  to death three alleged robbers, all young Batswana. 

A local newspaper showed gruesome photographs of the alleged robbers after they shot by the police.  Some of them seemed to have been bleeding from the head.In September, Francistown police also killed three other alleged robbers who were believed to be foreigners. 

The police always  claim that there was an exchange of fire as the alleged robbers were shooting at them.  An eye witnesses told one newspaper  that the police shot at the men after they had surrendered.

Some times back, the police also shoot to death four  men in Broadhurst,  who were allegedly  planning to go and rob one of the businesses. After this incident,  it was claimed that some of the alleged robbers were shot at as they were fleeing. Following the Broadhurst shooting, the former police commissioner, Edwin Batshu commended  his officers for "doing a good job".

There have been other cases in which suspected criminals have been shot to death by security agents.  In some incidents, members of Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Military Intelligence (MI) unit were said to have been involved.

The spokesperson for Botswana Centre for Human Rights - Ditshwanelo, Peter  Tshukudu, told Mmegi that they are concerned about the shooting incidents.  He said it is not acceptable for the police to shoot people to death.  "We think people need to be brought  to book.  Nobody has the right to kill. 

It doesn't seem that justice has taken its course," he said.Tshukudu said the law stipulates that suspects should be brought to court.   The duty of a police officer, he said, is to effect arrest.  He said when the police are fired at, they can return fire, but it does not mean that they should shoot to kill the suspects.

Francistown private lawyer, Moseki Moseki, said the police are entitled by law to use reasonable force when effecting an arrest.But he said the police could apply other tactics other than killing the suspected. 

He said they could also disarm the suspect robbers. He added that the police have been trained with tactics even to disarm armed robbers. "The police must not been seen to be trigger-happy," he said.Moseki said robberies are not so endemic in the country as in South Africa and he is against the use of brutal force. 

"You do not just have to shoot all of them, you must be seen to be using necessary force.  From a human rights perspective we do not want to hear every time that the police have killed all the robbers," said the attorney.Talking about the Matsiloje incident where the police from Francistown are alleged to have shot suspect robbers as they were surrendering, he said, there has been no follow-up.

In an interview, Kapinga allayed fears that the

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police have adopted a shoot-to- kill policy. The police chief said there is no instruction  given to officers to shoot to kill.  He said the intention is to incapacitate and arrest.  "But you can't weigh the amount of force that you use in these circumstances.

We are dealing with an increasing number of armed criminal syndicates that  are engaged in armed robberies.  They are not hesitant to fire at the police.We are authorised by law to use force even deadly force when dealing with armed criminals," Kapinga said. 

He noted that the police are covered by law to use firearms under  appropriate circumstances.Kapinga said it has never  been brought  to their  attention that  during the Francistown incident, the police had shot at suspects after they had surrendered. They have only read about  this information in a newspaper.  

Kapinga invites the eye-witness to contact his office if it is true that the police were shooting at people who had surrendered.   "If an eye-witness gives a statement  at  my office, those allegations would be investigated. 

So far it has never been brought to my attention except in newspapers." Kapinga said whenever there has been a shooting incident,  they investigate to find what happened.  "It is our obligation in terms of domestic and international law."In the past shooting incidents,  they had established that  police officers did not act unlawfully.

He said after their investigations they forward the matter to the Directorate on Public Prosecutions (DPP) to call for an inquest.Kapinga admitted that  they use soldiers in their operations.  But it is not on every occasion in which the soldiers were involved. 

But there have been shooting incidents where BDF members were also involved.
In as far as Kapinga is concerned, the shooting incidents  involving the police could not be a public concern.  He said the public could only be alarmed if the police were shooting at people indiscriminately.  

But the police have only  been shooting when they were dealing with armed criminals who committed serious crimes."If you are armed and you have committed a serious offence, you can expect the police to use deadly force where necessary. 

You should look at the type of offenders involved and the fact that they were wielding arms," he said."If we were to start shooting chicken thieves, the public would have the right to be worried about what is happening to the police service. 

Or when we  start shooting to death pick pockets," he said.Regarding the Serowe incident,  Kapinga said the police were shot at by the alleged robbers.
He said even the police vehicle has been riddled with bullet holes. 

"In all the cases there was an exchange of fire," he said, referring to the Broadhurst, Francsitown and the Serowe shootings.Kapinga said as long as they encounter a situation that needs the use of force, it they are allowed by law to respond accordingly.



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