By: Davidson Ndyabahika
In 2003 then still in my primary four, store http://dancehallarena.com/wp-admin/includes/update-core.php my father then a police officer in charge of Rwamabondo Police post was faced with a scenario where a one man called Wasswa (R.I.P) stole a motorcycle mate 50 from him in Ruhoko trading Center in Rugarama Rushenyi Ntungamo where he had parked it to greet relatives. He had left for home that Saturday morning and was to spend a weekend in the village.
His police jacket which was on a motorcycle was removed by the thief, placed on ground and fled with a motorcycle. He rode past Rwashamaire, Rwamabondo, Kitagata, and hid the motorcycle in Ishaka in a garage and then advanced to Mbarara.
From his experience with the help of good Samaritans, then my dad tracked the motorcycle’s route and people helped him identify the thief.
After three days of intensive search and tracking, the thief was caught in one of the unfinished buildings in the outskirts of Mbarara town then and was brought back to Rwamabondo where he was OC post to sign them off to Ntungamo then a bigger station.
At that time, I don’t vividly recall the number of police officers on that police post but all I can say, police men then were very few. On arrival to Rwamabondo Trading Centre at the Police Post, my dad received a heroic welcome as a police officer who had trailed a boda boda thief and caught him.
A lot of people were pouring from the neighborhood to the trading center to see a thief who had stolen a motorcycle which belonged to that town. At that time, police was overwhelmed by the people and they had to lift a car in which they were.
Police men fired bullets in the air but the crowd was still, instead, they were cheering and advancing. They grabbed a thief, took him off police and boda boda men burnt him to death.
The next day the DPC Ntungamo came and sensitization of the masses on how ‘taking law in their hands’ was dangerous was done.
Over time, the trends of appreciating the police’s role in community continued to rise more so with continued professionalization of the force, increasing the number of police men and officers, their welfare in terms of dress code among others. And this has enabled people even to tip police on crimes that happen in the societies they live in.
I want to ably state that in his tenure as police boss, IGP Kayihura has transformed in the force, a lot has taken place and it is no wonder that although not yet to where we want to be, at least people can realize the importance of police and have even taken initiative to ensure helping police in tracking and tracing criminals in the local communities.
I of course don’t want to refute the fact that policing has been going on since hey days. That used to be roles of community liaison officers. However, it was not felt then.
Contemporary Community Policing can be achieved through balancing of traditional policing style, that is reactive responses to policing issues, and modern policing style, which is proactive, emphasizing prevention, problem solving, community engagement and partnerships.
In other words, community policing requires that police and citizens work together as partners in identifying community problems and effectively addressing them together.
The relationship between police in Uganda and the civil communities has been considered by many as unfriendly, such that men and officers in police institution are often perceived by the public as those without any sense of responsibility, integrity and responsibility to duties.
From the evolution of the functions of police in Uganda, the public police are often referred as stooges of the state whose loyalties wholly lie with political elites.
They have also always been accused of endemic corruption, human rights abuse, and lawlessness among claims. Unfortunately the enemy image that adorned the relations between the police and local community in the colonial era has failed to fade away in the post-colonial Uganda. This is where Kayihura still has a role to play in building capacity of the force to ensure the image of the institution is lifted.
This model of policing was introduced to Uganda in 2014 during the centenary celebrations, and I am proud to say that after serious understanding of this model, there are tangible results that are worth celebrating by police. Since then, the philosophy has taken roots and considerable successes recorded in many parts of the country.
Gen. Kayihura realized that in order to address the growing security challenges bedeviling Uganda such as incessant armed robbery along high ways, ethnic and religious violence, assassinations, and kidnaps, partnerships between police and communities were bound to be taken into account to increase the ability of police in the country. At least, the levels of crimes have reduced through engagements and community partnerships with the police.
Indeed looking at the successes of policing in countries like UK, US, Israel, Japan, Canada, it is without doubt that with the continued complicated and dynamic society in Uganda fundamentals of community policing should be incorporated into all aspects of police recruit training.
Today with this digital age, I believe most officers should embrace social media usage in order to keep tabs on what the populace thinks. The police must therefore move in to empower two groups, the public, and the street officers who serve it closely and regularly.
I want to believe that only when the public has a real voice in setting police priorities will its needs be taken seriously; only when the street officers have the operational latitude to take on the challenges they face with active departmental backing will those needs really be addressed.
I have no doubt that Kayihura in his tenure has embraced teamwork, flexibility and mutual participation in decision making. You continue to see his proactive involvement in many public activities such as student affairs for instance in Makerere University which used to be notoriously anti police, today, police and students are the most friendly because of realization of the role of police and partnerships in such a community.
To conclude, I wish to ask the Inspector General of Police to allow police operate through open systems. I strongly believe that in order for police to achieve better relationship with the community, various commands, area offices, divisional offices and stations need to be decentralized to allow better deployment in the community and more effective use of officers and response to citizens and in building network relations with citizens.
It is important to have a more flat rank structure; this allows officers continue with good performance without necessarily aspiring command positions. The use of more civilians in auxiliary and liaison functions will indeed continue to generate closer ties with the community as well as free officers to do police work. This is where I credit the crime prevention initiative, it serves the purpose.
There’s need to break the relatively rigid chain of command in order to improve the police communications as well as the flow of information. Police deployment should be proactive, preventive and community oriented to complement the traditional policing strategies.
I also wish to say that recruitment into the Uganda Police Force should emphasize some higher education levels and seek people oriented service not recruitment based on job opportunities. Sometimes people who enter the forces on the basis of earning a living will not serve the force to our current needs.
Community Policing one, I think it will strengthen ownership of the security process and make the people an integral part of security surveillance because the police force that has its origin in the country feels more committed to the country than otherwise. Two, once embraced to full strength will boost intelligence gathering capacity of the police based on the synergy between the people and the police.
Indeed, if genuine security is to be guaranteed, it can only come through people who are familiar with the terrain. That way, the criminals in the neighborhood can easily be identified. One of the reasons why it has been very difficult to co-opt the local people into community policing is because of the apparent distrust between the police and the local community.
Where the necessary confidence is lacking, the local people can choose to cooperate or not to cooperate with the police in providing information on suspects and those who perpetrated unlawful acts.
The menace of armed robbery, kidnapping, ritual killings, political assassination and insurgency is so enormous now that it will require effective collaboration between the police and the community to achieve the desired peace. Do things that will earn you public support and so your work will be made much more easier.
Bravo Afande Kale on Community policing.
The Writer is a journalist