Citizens, politicians and ministers who complain daily about Uganda Police Force’s lack of adequate training, incompetence and tendencies to participate in, ignore, encourage or condone crime, welcome exposures and discussion in public of these ghastly police failures in an endeavour to lessen them.
As a citizen who is entitled to some protection of the police VIPPU, I have sometimes experienced or witnessed one or more of the evils that the police do. Compatriots and others have narrated some of the disturbing incidents in these dark chapters of Uganda Police work. It is worth noting that there are some police officers who act professionally with dedication to the service of the country and people and their good deeds should be publicly acknowledged and appreciated.
Sadly, however, these are few and far in between and appear to be resented or shunned by the corrupt, the indifferent and those who pursue personal interests above duty.
In Uganda of today, there are numerous serious complaints against Police incompetence, non-performance, indifference and corruption. Two of these complaints place the police methods of investigation, arrest, search and seizure of stolen property as well as the prosecution of culprits far too below the standards of average performances of compared to other police forces. The Constitution and relevant laws in this field of policing are ignored or violated with impunity by police officers who are supposed to protect life and property and bring law breakers to justice.
Since the early 1990s, law abiding citizens of this country have been compelled by patriotism and public duty to courageously report police commissions of crime. Other citizens and persons have been asked to assist the police in their investigations of crimes and recorded credible statements which under normal circumstances would lead to inevitable prosecutions and named suspects’ convictions. Unfortunately, many of the police have been incompetent and corrupt to advance the investigations or prosecutions beyond pockets.
Recently, a new phenomenon of policing has been observed. When a citizen is robbed or his or her property stolen, the investigating police demand bribes to enable them promise that they will catch the culprit. The bribe is called facilitation. I know many people who have facilitated police in millions of shillings but in every case, the police have miserably failed to perform.
In one recent case in Entebbe, a victim’s lawyer bought padlocks to lock up a client’s residence over alleged crimes. The police prevailed upon the lawyer not to lock up the house explaining that since the residence was a scene of the crime, the police would guard it. They demanded facilitation. The advocate initially paid money agreed to the horror of both the complainant and his lawyer. The police connived with the culprit and during nights, the culprit carried away all the evidential materials that would have assisted in the prosecution of the case and recovery of compensation for the victim. When questioned to explain themselves, the police, including the DPC, who himself had been facilitated to ensure that the premises were properly guarded, switched off their telephones.
A police station on Entebbe Road is notoriously known for compromising cases even when the evidence is adequate to convict suspects.
Facilitation and compromises with suspects who usually purchase their way to freedom is rampant. A recent case where a thief and the suspected accomplice had been arrested, the station’s CID chief released both offenders after facilitation. The police officer returned the mobile phone to the accused. Since then, the accused has been telephoning the victim and taunting him about his silly efforts to have him investigated.
The victim complained to the DPC who promised to investigate and advise the victim. The suspect has since then constantly telephoned the victim bragging that no one can touch him because the DPC comes from his own home district. He even boasted that he knows where the stolen property was sold. The police were told of these developments but apparently under the current trend of affairs of policing in Uganda, the competition is between who facilitates the police most generously. Whether the criminal or victim wins becomes a battle of wits. In any event, the odds appear to favour criminals.
Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge