ZRP Traffic must move with the times FILE PIC
Occasionally, police may need to exhibit “force” but smashing the windscreen of each law-breaking vehicle cannot be the modus operandi

Occasionally, police may need to exhibit “force” but smashing the windscreen of each law-breaking vehicle cannot be the modus operandi

Gerald Maguranyanga Traffic Friday

BY and large, the Zimbabwe Republic Police makes a remarkable policing force.
But because they are still miles from being the perfect police unit, they naturally have some unconverted, rabid critics who loathe anything ZRP.
I believe that these critics are entitled to their opinions; which stance may even be justified.
The irrefutable fact though is that, notwithstanding ZRP’s imperfections that dent its integrity, you can count on that bunch of men and women in uniform to deliver when serious duty calls.

With next to nothing in terms of resources, and armed only with dogged determination, the ZRP does and will crack some problematic cases.
I will not waste ink; it is public knowledge that the men and women in those grey and dark blue, so-called riot fatigues, are well-trained, arguably among Africa’s very best.
In matters traffic though, our police have been found wanting.

In my opinion, this is chiefly because of two standout reasons.
One, the blatant sleaze that has become a disease in the traffic force. I will not dwell on that subject today as corruption is not the topic matter.
ZRP Traffic, on the other hand, agonises a great deal from the use of poor equipment, if not even the complete lack of modern police gadgetry.

I would not be far of the mark to suggest that some police stations, in their traffic policing kitty, only possess the infamous baton for their entire prized traffic equipment inventory.
Now that is being seriously deprived ladies and gentlemen. Ndiyo nhamo yenhehwe chena iyoyo!

Many of us may not be very good friends with traffic cops, but it is wholly undesirable to have an immobile, ill-equipped or totally non-equipped traffic police.
It is a matter of course that you and I will badly need traffic cops one day – and fast!

And when that happens, may we find the cops adequately kitted to perform their vital duties. It reminds me of the cries for functional, friendly public hospitals.
You don’t think much of a hospital and its capacity till the day you find yourself or a loved one needing immediate help in a life-or-death scenario.

I have, on these pages, decried never seeing police using a breathalyser on the road in Zimbabwe, or even at a police station!
That paints to me a likely picture of the dearth of the vital gadget in the police service (much better a word than “force”). ZRP Traffic suffers from a shocking scarcity of modern policing equipment.
Our police do not even have barricade tape in the event they want to demarcate limits, say to in a road traffic accident situation so they can protect vital evidence, or just delve into their investigations uninterrupted by encroaching, curious members of the public.

The same can be said of other basics like traffic control cones, scene lights, control wands, etc. We live in the age of rainproof notebooks; do our police have these? It’s an emphatic no.
Our cops have zero dedicated city patrol vehicles. To patrol city streets, the good old foot beat is employed.

The same beat polices the ultra-notorious kombis.
The result is that the baton-wielding officer is the cop of choice for dealing with traffic issues.

Now, that is clearly objectionable and will not achieve the intended results.
Kombis painfully toy with the foot cops in areas where they illegally load passengers. What can a foot cop do to a motor vehicle? It’s a no-brainer!

Wikipedia lists the following as minimum patrol car/checkpoint gear:
traffic cones
portable flashing blue lights
portable “accident, slow down”, divert arrow signs, etc.
tow ropes
fire extinguishers
crowbar and hacksaw
axe, broom and shovel
industrial gloves
first aid and resuscitation kit
infectious diseases protection kit
space blankets
water container
tyre deflation equipment
Teddy bear to console a distraught child after an accident
breathalyzer kit
radar gun
Taser gun
body worn evidential camera

From time to time, the ZRP has splurged on posh equipment, such as the “high-powered” BMW 3 Series highway patrol vehicles.
I have no idea though why the police have a taste for the expensive to run, high-specification BMWs.

A new Toyota Corolla, purchased at half the price, could do the same job.
I am still to hear of the “high-powered” Beemers running down the bad boys on the highways.

To boost efficiency and equipment, Traffic Friday has previously advised ZRP Traffic to set up a well-equipped audio visual lab.
That should not cost much money to initiate. Basic computers and entry level hand-cams can do a good job of collecting vital visual evidence of say, red light jumpers, and summonsing them to the local station for charging.

It would be interesting to see which human being would deny clear video evidence.
The days of physically chasing after traffic offender, on sight, belong to policing history.

Yes, occasionally, you may need to exhibit “force” but smashing the windscreen of each law-breaking vehicle cannot be your chief modus operandi.
It is bad PR and viewed as barbaric in 2014.

Dear reader, do you ever wonder whatever happened to the speed cameras that were set up on major roads leading into town?
They were such deterrence to speeding, but sadly, as with many things in Zimbabwe, we allowed the automated cameras to die prematurely.

ZRP Traffic impacts on each and every person that uses Zimbabwean roads.
We count on the police to remove the bad drivers from the roads and also lessen anti-social and criminal use of the roads. Public reassurance has suffered much in recent years as there’s poor visibility of traffic police patrolling our road network.

Speaking things technology and equipment, why does ZRP not disseminate traffic information on Twitter and other social media platforms?
Why is there no publicly advertised WhatsApp police number for relaying confidential traffic information to the police?

The days of the “suggestion box” for squealers are long gone. Why is the ZRP not on Facebook? Come on ZRP, move with the times.
The way you trained in the 1980s or ‘90s is certainly not the way you police in 2014.

Because I would like to see a huge improvement in ZRP Traffic performance, I personally do not have any problems with the ZRP retaining a sizable percentage of accrued traffic fines for use primarily to bolster their sorry equipment. Of course, each dollar so raised must be accounted for.

For instance, instead of the high-end BMWs, 250cc motorcycles for city and peripheral patrol may be acquired to help do a good job.
In South Africa, the entry-level VW 1.4Litre Citi Golf is effectively and widely used for Johannesburg Metropolitan patrol duties.

Sadly, ZRP seemingly have an appetite for things “high powered”!
The Easter holidays are upon us; please keep the driving “happy, happy!”

Gerald Maguranyanga moderates Road Safety Africa, on www.facebook.com/RoadSafetyAfrica, an interactive community page that solicits ideas to curb road traffic accidents in Zimbabwe and Africa. Feedback: WhatsApp only: +263 772 205 300; email: [email protected]

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