Mandatory Sentencing of Cop Killers
How do we approach it?
When we call for the “lobbying” towards any aim, we should consider the long term effects the things we lobby for will have on society. Recently Yusuf Abramjee (Head of News at Primedia, Second vice president of Crime Stoppers International etc.) tweeted a tweet to others within his network which read as below:
“@SAPoliceService @CrimeLineZA @SHOUTSA @lead_sa It’s time to start lobbying for mandatory sentences for #copkillers.”
Mr. Abramjee is well known to the South African public as someone who is actively involved in leading South Africa. I used to be a fan, in fact, there was a time I wanted to be like him. While I still appreciate the efforts of Mr. Abramjee and all that Primedia as a company stands for and support them in many ways, I think Abramjee himself is losing the plot.
The call to lobby for “mandatory sentences for cop killers” on a social network is an irresponsible, emotional and possibly even aimlessly patriotic response to a very sensitive and intricate social situation.
What are we saying when we say that the killing of a cop is any worse and should be punished any differently than the killing of a child, an aged person or anyone else? The right to life is the right to life. Period. Choosing to serve your country as a policeman or policewoman will obviously present risks which are clear when making that choice.
We may argue that an attack on a policeman is an attack on the state and we may be correct, but it is also an indication of the respect for police in this country and this is an issue on its own. When you consider that media reports reveal that over 50% of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) takes bribes it means one thing and one thing only; the police department is compromised and has been overridden by criminals. Bribery is a crime. Like the claim that marijuana is a doorway to harder stuff, taking a traffic bribe should be seen no differently. It escalates.
“how long until the mindset of the criminal and his pursuer (the police) become one and the same thing.”
More than 10 years ago I coined a phrase which resulted in much criticism of my views. I said that “the mindset of the prisoner and the warder (had) become one and the same thing.” I also asked the question, “how long until the mindset of the criminal and his pursuer (the police) become one and the same thing.” I was told that I hate the police. That is not true. I want the police to represent the law. I want them to understand the mind of the criminal, not succumb to it, but does 50% of an entire police department not justify the concerns which led to the question being asked over 10 years ago? Can we deny that this is indeed the case, that criminals have defeated the police resolve to remain unaffected?
The aim of the police service is to beat crime. These are exceptional servants of South Africa because they have chosen this path. The choice to become a policeman or policewoman is one which is made from the sense of a calling to duty in spite of what the consequences may be. Are we not saying Mr Abramjee, that we have lost sight of the purpose in the choices we make and the understanding we have of our roles within society when we change those value systems? Are we not taking away the importance rather than adding to it?
We call them to serve with pride because of the dangers they face. When they fail to do that duty we cannot call for them to be treated in any special way and that is what, in my very humble opinion, is the end result of calling for a group to lobby toward this aim. Mr Abramjee should create a ‘think tank’ and not exclude those who have been there and pulled themselves out of the hole. It is they that know the way and can offer much toward finding solutions.
Besides the above, there are circumstances which lead to any given situation. We have read about police shooting people while lying on the floor. We have heard of certain groups of police terrorizing night clubs and townships. Shall we argue that these policemen and women should be given mandatory sentences because they took an oath to serve and they didn’t? One may possibly have a stronger argument toward this.
Are we saying that our police are no longer aware of the risks they take when they make the choice to serve?
When we call for mandatory sentencing in any given situation it should be based on the principle that the greatest constructive end result be achieved. Are these mandatory sentences managed by any process which determines a period of time which is constructive in reforming prisoners? Are they able to determine when that process becomes destructive through institutionalization of the mind and other effects of the incarceration system on the psyche.
Mr Abramjee, in my view is showing an increasing level of insensitivity to the end result. Society doesn’t need hyped up talk toward action on issues which are not clearly understood. Mr Abramjee refuses to speak to and attempt to understand the criminal mind by simply tuning or tapping into one. As head of so many crime solution seeking and crime fighting initiatives I’d have thought Mr. Abramjee would jump at any opportunity given to listen.
This brings me to this: Why is it that we all wish to be heard but not listen? What makes us an expert on anything? Is it a book we read or a life we lived? We need to start taking note of the people in the situation and not the people who speak from a platform so very far and apart from it. In this way we avoid situations like the Lonmin Massacre, begin to understand the criminal and make advances towards rooting crime out in a constructive and effective way. Sometimes all we need do is ask the right questions of the right people. If we don’t have the right questions or the answers we sometimes need to listen and not speak.