Police misconduct, negligence cost taxpayers millions

By Maria Kandjungu

MISCONDUCT and negligence by officers in the Namibian Police (Nampol) has cost the State millions in taxpayers’ revenue with the force currently battling over 500 lawsuits and damage claims stretching to N$800 million, Confidente has learnt.

Documents seen by Confidente reveal that between 2016 and August this year, only  51 cases have been settled out of court with the police force coughing up at least N$3 million in damages to the complainants who had successfully sued for various misconduct matters.

While 124 cases were dismissed by the court, Nampol is still facing prosecution on 325 cases that are pending to date.

Confidente could not establish how much the force has spent in legal fees fighting these lawsuits.

Nampol Inspector General Sebastian Ndeitunga this week exclusively expressed concern to Confidente stating that the rising number of lawsuits against the police is not only costly but also tainting the image of the force.

“I am also concerned with this. The number of cases is high and it’s worrisome. We are losing millions because of officers’ misconduct and negligence. That is money that could have been used by the force to effectively provide services to our people,” Ndeitunga said.

He added that a law enforcement agency should, ideally, have fewer lawsuits lodged against its officials as they are supposed to know better.

According to him, most of the cases are being made against young officers who although trained and provided with mentorship, tend to easily get side-tracked and lose focus from their responsibilities of providing services to members of the public.

“We have officers who are negligent, (and who) do not have respect and they are the ones getting in arguments with members of the public and threatening. Although they are supposed to know better … they are humans and they also make mistakes like everyone else,” Ndeitunga added.

Statistically, Confidente has it on good authority that between 2016 and 2020, a total of 7 699 cases were registered against the Namibian police officials, this translates to at least four cases being opened against police officers per day. Of those cases, 5 581 have been finalised and resulted in the dismissal of about 218 officials while 2 118 are still under investigation, pending prosecutor-general decision or in the courts countrywide.

According to Ndeitunga assaults, negligence, misconduct and excessive use of force during arrests make up the majority of the claims lodged against police officers across the country.

“Most of the assaults happen during arrests. Some members of the public resist arrest and become violent. And when you resist our officers can use minimum force and when you are violent officers will also retaliate and  sometimes that results in breaking an arm or leg or losing a tooth and then a lawsuit,” he said adding that they also file counter cases which multiplies the number of cases registered.

He acknowledged that while some of the cases are malicious claims aimed to demoralise hard working officers, some of the cases are quite serious and point to increasing unbecoming and costly misconduct of police officers.

Ndeitunga further said what is further concerning, is the pace at which cases involving police officers are investigated, prosecuted and finalised.

“The process is very slow especially with cases involving officers and when an officer is being investigated, they cannot get promoted and sometimes they are on long administrative leave.”

Statistics show a trend of registered cases and lawsuits rising every year in comparison to the number of cases being resolved.

In 2016, there were 93 claims made against the police of which 64 were finalised, 79 cases were opened in 2017 and 55 were finalised. However, of the 114 lawsuits lodged in 2018 only 36 were finalised and in 2019 out of 125 cases only 19 cases have been finalised.