African Policing Civilian Oversight Forum (Apcof) has urged the Malawi Police Service to adopt international standards of controlling crowds if the service is to be effective in policing assemblies.
Apcof Executive Director, Sean Tait, made the remarks on Monday during a day-long comprehensive high command training in policing of assemblies, use of force and firearms.
The training took place at the National Police headquarters, Area 30, in Lilongwe.
Tait further urged police to conduct regular refresher courses on public order management.
“At any point, it is important to have constant refreshers on aspects of planning, preparations and risk assessment as well as having negotiation skills around potential use of force. If they are not well trained and prepared, the police will have challenges to handle a large number of people and people voicing their concerns within confined spaces,” Tait said.
Acting Inspector General of Police, Rodney Jose, said policing of assemblies presents enormous challenges to police organisations across the world.
Jose said the training has come at the right time as Malawians are preparing for the May 21 2019 Tripartite Elections.
“It is extremely important that police officers [should] have full understanding of international human rights norms as well as domestic laws, policies and procedures with regard to policing of assemblies and public disorders. The Constitution of Malawi grants every Malawian freedom of assembly. Such freedom must at all times be respected, protected and facilitated by the police whenever citizens want to exercise it,” Jose said.
In June last year, Malawi Human Rights Commission Director of Civil and Political Rights, Peter Chisi, said time had come for police personnel to adopt internationally accepted standards of handling crowds for the country to reduce cases of police tear-gassing and shooting at unarmed citizens.
Apcof is a not-for-profit trust working on issues of police accountability and governance in Africa.