Thursday, 5 February 2015

This is why the Ugandan police must embrace innovative policing tactics


Two stories drew my interest in The Daily Monitor last week. One was titled, “Police to use more militant methods” and the other was, “Patriotism trainees shoot two”.  These were run on 30th and 31st January respectively. The former re-emphasized how police plans to employ more militaristic tactics in the management of public order while the latter narrated an incident in which people undertaking the “patriotism training” shot two residents in Iganga district.

Today, I will mainly limit myself to the police’ re-confirmation of its intentions to continue engaging military means while undertaking public order response. 

My biggest worry, which could be a worry of many other Ugandans, is that the Police Force seems to have designated the Ugandan community as a violent community.

Whereas this may not be an accurate portrayal of the Ugandan population, such a narrative is bound to indeed make Ugandans aggressive and confrontational especially towards not just the police but any security personnel. 

Surely, I doubt there is any of us that would like a society that is guided by the lose principle of ‘violence begets violence’.  Very unfortunately, this seems to be the direction we are pursuing. While you would expect the people in leadership positions to provide wise counsel on these matters, this doesn’t seem to be happening and instead, elements in there seem to be bent to fanning provocative styles in the management of public order – a thing that is really absurd.

Not withstanding the ‘professionalization’ of the Uganda Police Force, which is duly commendable in some respects, the introduction of militant approaches is likely to undermine even the little gains that may have been registered under the ‘professionalization’ banner.   The highhanded methods in managing public order may only (if they haven’t already) serve to breed a culture of aloofness between the police and the people that police is meant to serve.

As a light reminder, Police is supposed to work in partnership with communities they serve to maintain law and order, protect members of the public and their property, prevent crime, reduce the fear of crime and improve the quality of life for all citizens.  All this cannot be fulfilled when the same institution is slanted towards a belief of regular application of force towards the very vulnerable citizens.

Police’ resolve to continue adopting military means is more worrying especially coming hot on the heels of preliminary preparations for the 2016 election.  Between 2015 and 2016, there is going to be a lot of political/public activities – ranging from party meetings through campaigns to events around the actual polling.  If policing around the electoral process is going to be dogged by such a militaristic ideology, then that nature of policing risks being a source of insecurity, violence and instability for the country. This could be worsened by the systematic and reciprocal suspicion by the citizens towards police involvement in electoral processes.

Of course there is visible disillusionment of the police about using the traditional methods of policing.  The changing times call for changing approaches to policing.  However, the search for new approaches must adhere to the confines of civility.  Innovations like community policing might be essential to roll out in an organized, consistent and publically acceptable manner.  Beyond such new civil tactics, police should think of using robust early warning systems to detect crime and potential violence.  This system should however not be used to unduly target certain individuals or groups in society especially as we head towards the 2016 elections.



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