The Maldives Police Service (MPS) has alleged that criminals have been posing as police officers in Addu City for the last two weeks in order to commit robberies.
In light of the allegations, authorities are warning members of the public to request the ID of any officer approaching them for questioning or to conduct a search.
However, Addu City Council today alleged that it had not been informed of any cases where thieves were posing as police in the municipality, but had received multiple complaints of plain clothes officers searching people and private property without a warrant or ID.
A police media official confirmed that investigations were presently under way in Addu City into several separate incidents where individuals claiming to be officers searched members of the public in the street or at their homes before robbing them of valuables.
Police are working to identify those who are posing as police in order to commit robberies, though no arrests have been made so far, the official continued.
However, police claim that no complaints have been lodged regarding reports of officers refusing to show their identification when requested by the public in Addu City.
In an official statement published yesterday (June 15), police reiterated that all genuine officers – even those on duty in plain clothes – are required to carry their police identification. The public was therefore encouraged to ask officers to see such documentation when they were being searched or questioned.
The robberies were suspected of having been committed as part of attempts to defame the reputation of the police in Addu as officers continue with an operation designed to curb crime in the city, the statement added.
As part of this operation, a task force consisting of 50 Special Operations (SO) police arrived in the atoll on January 17, 2013 and were supposed to remain only until April 17 this year, Addu City Council has previously claimed. However, these SO force have remained in Addu City, targeting those allegedly involved in drug and gang issues.
Council’s uncertainty claims
Addressing the police warning today, Addu City Mayor Abdulla Sodig said he had not been contacted by authorities or received complaints of criminals disguising themselves as police officers to steal from the public.
However, Sodig said that with his office receiving complaints about officers allegedly forcing their way into homes to conduct searches without uniforms, warrants or identification, it was increasingly difficult for the public to verify real police in the city.
“We never get complaints about thieves breaking into properties disguised in police uniform,” he alleged. “We have received complaints that the SO perform searches of people and property without their ID or uniform. Also, people have been beaten, threatened, abused, abducted and locked up without relatives being informed.”
Sodig argued that on the back of allegations that certain police officers were conducting their duties without wearing uniforms or providing their ID, local thieves had found themselves able to exploit public uncertainty to perform robberies.
“Some people have issued complaints with us and the PIC. These are not fake police officers, they are genuine officers who are refusing to show their ID and stopping anyone on the street they like,” he claimed. “They are going out without their uniforms on to conduct searches. People here know they are ‘star force’ [SO] Police.”
The ‘star force’ was a name previously given to the police SO unit during the latter stages of former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom’s 30 years as head of state.
Sodig claimed that in the past, the city council had been informed by police of any special criminal operations being conducted by officers. However, he claimed Addu City Council had presently received no information concerning the allegations of fraudulent officers operating in Addu.
“Police do not concentrate on thieves or drug users, rather they focus on political party members and activists,” he alleged.
Minivan News was awaiting a response from the Police Integrity Commission (PIC) at time of press.
Last month, Mayor Sodig claimed 50 people were arrested in advance of a visit by President Dr Mohamed Waheed to Addu City, alleging that “90 percent of those taken in were MDP (Maldivian Democratic Party) supporters”.
Police however denied making the arrests.
As part of an ongoing police operation in Addu to “keep the peace”, “lots of people were taken into custody and were released after their information was collected”, a police media official who spoke with Minivan News initially stated.
The same official later refuted the statement, claiming that only one person was arrested in Addu City on May 7.
Addu City Council had said it had previously requested police “provide extra strength to increase numbers to about 30 per station.”