Rogue police officers have been putting up illegal roadblocks and conducting patrols countrywide to extract bribes from the public, but the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) is urging those who suspect they are victims to make reports to police hotlines as soon as possible so immediate action can be taken to track down and arrest the gangs.
The reports have besides illegal road blocks, people in police uniforms driving unmarked vehicles and stopping motorists, and after threatening them with fake charges and warning them that they face automatic jail terms then suggest and accept bribes.
Even fake foot patrols have been reported, again with the intention to threaten and then extract bribes.
In an interview yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi urged the public to report suspicious behaviour immediately.
“Such people will be brought to book. This is especially for those in street corners and other certain points. The public should notify the police commanders so that action will be taken immediately,” he said.
He added: “Remember the country is currently under national lockdown and there are teams manning roadblocks. There are combined operations being conducted with the police and other security forces.”
This means that in most cases police officers are not conducting roadblocks alone except in a few cases where they would be checking for violations of traffic offences. In such cases, Asst Comm Nyathi said such officers should identify themselves and inform motorists of the purpose of the task they will be carrying out while also patrolling.
“Currently members of the public are aware of all places where roadblocks are being manned countrywide by security forces,” he said.
Members of the public are therefore urged to report any illegal criminal activities or people mounting illegal roadblocks on hotlines (024) 2748836 or 2703631 or the nearest police station.
During the past few years, some dismissed police officers and others who get hold of or make police uniforms were reported to be in the habit of mounting illegal roadblocks and even using spikes to get cash from unsuspecting people.
There are at least three different types of roadblocks in Zimbabwe.
The common is a standard roadblock where police are required to set-up visible security barriers such as drums that are painted with visible colours and reflectors and usually supporting booms. There is the “Police Ahead” sign about 80m before the roadblock.
Everything should be there including the blue lights because some of these can stretch into the night. And that roadblock, the standard one, should be manned by more than four traffic officers.
The other one involves spot checks, where police will profile an area where there is always or suspected criminal activities. Police would be in these areas to check whether there are any crimes happening or just showing their visibility.
The third is the highway patrol. The highway patrol usually has cars that will be driving along the highways and detecting the driving trends on the roads. They will be checking defective cars and can stop drivers who will be misbehaving.
The highway patrol officers would also be on the lookout for criminals and even trucks with suspicious cargo.