Does it make a difference that they were taken in 2019 or 2022?
The sad reality is that this disease has existed for years. Police brutality is nothing new. The difference in the last couple of years is that social media has perhaps shed more light on a police force that is out of control.
During the first lockdown, we saw the videos from Résidences Vallijee. The Saramandine brothers were beaten to a pulp.
Shocking footage of 2020 police brutality in Mauritius
More recently we saw the ‘restraint’ shown by the police during the riots. On one occasion, we saw the President of the Bar Council trying to convince a bunch of overzealous officers of the importance of a court order.
Contrary to the Mauritius Police Force (MPF) own Code of Ethics, there was no “display of self-control, tolerance, understanding and courtesy”. Force was nowhere near “the minimum amount”. “Due process” was non-existent. Social media has been flooded with comments on the actions of the police. And as is generally customary in situations like this, the one argument you hear is: We should not generalize. Those were the actions of a few. I do not buy this bullcrap anymore.
There is no generalizing. Generalization only applies if the criticism was being aimed at police officers. It isn’t.
Being critical of the police is not being anti-police officers. It’s being anti-police brutality! Whether the brutality is caused by one officer or the entire police force is irrelevant. Some might think that being anti-police brutality simply paints a bad picture of an otherwise decent police force and that the actions of a few ‘bad apples’ cannot ruin the reputation of an entire force. This however ignores the fact that being a police officer is a job that is simply not comparable to any other job.
Some jobs, as Chris Rock puts it, cannot afford bad apples. There are standards expected of the police. If police officers think those are too high, then they should choose another career. Their behaviour should be beyond reproach. Period. There is no room for bad apples. This is what they signed up to when they took the job; to uphold the law, and to do so, within the acceptable realm of the law; anything but would fall below the standards expected of them.
When you have the power to arrest, to use force, to kill if need be; then the standards expected of you are much higher than the standards expected of ordinary citizens. If you are the police, expect your actions to be scrutinized. There is no margin of error for you. You do not have the luxury of ‘mistakes’. Postmen make mistakes. Accountants make mistakes. Police officers can’t.
Are we meant to be grateful that there are police officers who do NOT beat people up? Seriously? Police brutality does not go away just because the majority of policemen are decent human beings.
Beatings by the police are not mistakes. They never are. They are a deliberate attempt to humiliate and degrade people who are on the receiving end of the violence. For many people, this is only a slight escalation of their general experience with the police. An experience that involves disdain, arrogance, and contempt, where the officer considers himself above the law, and superior to the citizens he is supposed to serve. This is not shocking. Stop pretending that it is.
So when the officer in one of the 2020 lockdown videos verbally abuses the person he previously battered and asks, as the latter lies on the floor, almost unconscious: “Tone fini mort ta?!”, this is not necessarily out of character. It is an extension of this same disdain and contempt.
When the beatings and torture are recorded, it is not for evidential purposes. The officers are recording because they want to brag about their ‘exploits’. They know that the videos will be shared across social media. In their mind, it is the right thing to do. They do it because they think they are untouchable. The person they battered is only worthy of contempt and disdain. They do it because they have the POWER to do it.
Let’s be honest, not many jobs will give you the luxury of battering people in their homes, taking them to the police station for some more battering while recording the whole thing on video without anyone batting an eyelid. Whether their actions are legal is irrelevant; they do it because they are the police. These situations ONLY arise with the police.
IT’S CALLED POLICE BRUTALITY.
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS POSTAL SERVICE BRUTALITY.
When David Gaiqui is stripped naked in a police station when heads are stamped on or repeatedly hit with a tonfa, when confessions are obtained illegally, when people are duped into accepting false accusations – these are not mistakes. They are part of a systemic problem in the MPF which has gone on for too long. A problem that will go on as long as they keep getting away with it.
The people defending the police’s actions, pretending those are one-off incidents or asking us to pay attention to good officers instead are exacerbating this problem.
The justification for violence should never be on the person on the receiving end of it. It should always be on the perpetrator: ‘Why are you being violent?’, as opposed to ‘Give me a reason to not be violent to you’. This logic does not seem to resonate with many people.
The assumption here, of course, is that the ‘BEAT FIRST. ASK QUESTIONS LATER’ policy is acceptable.
For argument’s sake, assume that the people who ended up being beaten were indeed in the wrong. Would this justify the abuse and the brutality? Would this make the beatings lawful? I have news for you folks. No, it wouldn’t. However reprehensible their behaviour, none of it would have justified the brutality. As far as I know, the laws of the land have not been suspended. The Constitution still says that “No person shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading punishment or other such treatment”. The Criminal Code, still makes it an offence for “a public official or a person acting in an official capacity,” to “intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, on any other person”.
Those harping on about people having to respect the laws of the land and defending the upholders of the laws (the police), ironically do not realise that the latter’s actions are in contravention of those same laws (i.e the laws that prevent ANYONE from beating the sh*t out of anyone). Cognitive dissonance anyone?
Police brutality is nothing new. Burying your head in the sand won’t make it go away. And, let’s call a spade a spade. It is the poorest and the most disenfranchised of our society who generally bear the brunt of a heavy-handed approach by the police.
The well-to-do’s and the privileged, on the other hand, have generally been safe from police brutality. Uncomfortable as it is, that’s just a fact.
Stop pretending this is a “THIS GOVERNMENT” problem only. None of the wise guys before the current lot did anything about it. The police are the repressive and violent arm OF THE STATE and as long as we have this incestuous relationship between the morons who govern us and the morons who beat us up, the repressive arm will be used against our interests.
It’s about time we speak up against this bullshit.
We deserve better.
Footage of presumed police violence circulating on social media in May 2022.