Keep traffic police on the road

Wednesday December 19 2018


By Olive C. Kobusingye

Traffic police officers have been ordered off the highways and in Kampala Metropolitan Police area except in areas that are directly involved in control of traffic jam after President Museveni accused them of corruption in his anti-graft campaign.

A message sent by the Director of Traffic and Road Safety, Mr Steven Kasiima, last Thursday, ordered all traffic commanders to act immediately.

However, the President’s latest directive needs to be opposed and rejected right away before it takes effect. According to media reports, the President has learnt that Traffic Police are extorting money from motorists!

Okay, so here comes the rational response. The new (presumably saintly, totally incorruptible) anti-corruption outfit based in State House is ordered to fix this national scandal.

According to Mr Kasiima’s directive, all traffic police personnel must remain in office (off the roads) ready to respond to incidents, and only come out on the road while conducting operations sanctioned by police headquarters and supervised physically by the District Police Commanders, Regional Traffic Officers and Officers-in-Charge.”

Don’t laugh. This is serious. We should all protest this. Police have very many functions. The Fire Brigade is a reactive unit. It should have fire engines and personnel ready at all times, waiting for calls that trigger their deployment. The traffic police, on the other hand, are not simply reactive, they should be largely deterrent.

Their presence on the road ensures law and order. They must not wait for an offence to be committed before they are called to come out and intervene.

Besides, the very nature of traffic offenses and most other crimes committed on our roads require that these officers be present on the roads in order for those crimes to be detected and appropriately prevented.

Mr Kasiima, please explain to the President that for the traffic police, there are worse ills than officers asking for bribes. Let him know that the role of the police is very different from that of the military.

Show him the math; you have only so many District Police Commanders, Regional Traffic Officers and Officers-in-Charge.

They cannot be out physically supervising the ticketing of errant drivers. Such officers are probably best deployed at their desks to look at reports coming in from the field, plan, strategize, support teams remotely, and perform other functions that are critical to the efficient running of the police, without necessarily setting foot on the road.

If police are taken off the roads because they have been found taking bribes, by the same token, health workers should be ordered out of hospitals, magistrates should be told to stay away from the courts, and only those MPs vetted by the new anti-corruption unit should be allowed in the Parliament chambers.
Olive C. Kobusingye,