Crime Watch: Getting to know your police
AS WE continue to discover new ways of assisting the general public, we realise the importance of keeping you upraised on some of the obvious features of your police service, but which features have remained a secret to many.
Rarely do people bother themselves with the rank structure and organisational set up of the police as it has never appeared useful to them.
On the contrary, we stand to gain a lot from understanding the various levels of authority within the ZRP and how as citizens we can identify each of these levels.
The police rank structures and their respective scope of authority facilitate the operational performance of the police service.
Very often, we have grappled with situations where the public comes fuming to the public relations office at the provincial headquarters seeking recourse with police command over issues which could have been resolved by the next person in the line of command at operational level.
Sometimes we, as public relations, have no one to blame besides ourselves as the police-public interface because breaking ground for such an understanding to prevail is only pen-and-paper away, hence this writing.
Let us first begin by recognising that the Zimbabwe Republic Police comprises the regular force, whose rank structure we will discuss today, and the police constabulary, the latter being now a voluntary branch whose services is provided as and when required.
The first category of police officers in the Zimbabwe Republic Police is made of what are commonly referred to as non-commissioned officers who are of the rank of Assistant Inspector and below. These are constables, sergeants, sergeant-majors and assistant inspectors. How then can we tell these officers apart?
The first entry point in the regular force is the Constable who is usually seen wearing shoulder titles bearing the letters Z.R.P. only with no other accompanying symbols.
These can either be on material made of cloth(slip-ons) or metal(anodized) depending on the type manning our frontline offices i.e. receptions and charge offices.
It is also important to note that dress codes commonly worn by police officers we meet on day to day basis do not signify any rank of authority, but rather it is the shoulder titles that do so.
Constables are the general operational staff that we see performing duties like attending to and investigating reports of crimes committed. These officers report to sergeants which is the rank next in our discussion.
Sergeants are regarded as first line managers. These members are noted by shoulder titles bearing 3 ‘V’ shaped symbols above the letters Z.R.P. The cloth slip-ons are worn on the shoulder. The metal title which is worn together with the anodized Z.R.P. is worn on the right upper arm.
Sergeants also perform duties that are done by constables, but are directly responsible for their supervision in terms of duty and discipline.
In most stations they are given responsibilities where they are in charge of each shift or team on duty.
A sergeant is the next officer a person seeking clarification on any issue pertaining to service sought or rendered one is expected to approach.
The rank of Sergeant Major comes after that of sergeant. Sergeant majors are the custodians of discipline and presentation of all members below their rank. They are seen wearing a clock/ watch like symbol bearing the Zimbabwe Bird on their left wrist and carry a stick (cane stick) in the right hand.
The rank of Assistant Inspector completes the category for non-commissioned officers. Assistant Inspectors carry a star symbol above the letters Z.R.P. and these are either on cloth or metallic gold.
Assistant Inspectors in most stations can be members responsible for administration, crime or operations. These are also members in charge police posts and can also be found acting in positions of station Officer-in-Charge when he is absent from station for one reason or another.
Having outlined how non-commissioned officers can be identified, it is vital for every person to always develop a habit of getting to know the identity and role of members of the police in relation to their ranks and scope of authority.
The majority of the cases we spent time and money travelling to higher officers seeking recourse on matters of service delivery can actually be resolved at much lower levels which is very convenient to all of us.
All we need to do is to get to know the next person in line and help could be on its way faster and easier.