For the years police have been conducting investigations on criminal matters, it has failed to learn that parading suspects before media, has high impact on their investigations and public perceptions. The recent arrests made by police of two men alleged to have killed a boda boda rider, and taken off with his motorcycle, police has exposed how poorly they conducts investigations.
It should be recalled that a CCTV camera footage captured on June 30 went viral on social media, showing two male passengers perched on a boda boda, but just before they could disembark the motorcycle, one of the men seized the rider by neck, while the other one used a metalic object to hit the their victims to death.
Following the killing of the boda boda rider, police carried out arrest of one of the suspects and paraded him before the media. The parading of the suspect sparked off public reaction in Mpigi District where residents attacked and wanted to lynch the suspects family, who were save only by the intervention of police.
It is important that police updates the public about their investigations. However, that does not mean that the Force can only do this through parading of suspects before the media even before they are taken to court or investigations are done.
Police should not be seen working under the pressure of the public or playing to the gallery. That action is not necessary. Moreover, that was not the first time members of the public have attempted to lynch or even lynched a family or destroyed their property on account of seeing member a member of the family being paraded by police as a suspect over an offence.
Parading suspects before the media is a total violation of their rights and a very inept way of carrying out investigations. Police should always carry out clandestine investigations, collect evidence and present the evidence in court during prosecution. Proceedings in court are always carried out in the open, meaning that if police want the public to know about all the investigations, they will definitely get to know it when the matter reaches court, but not through parading them.
However, that does not stop the police from briefing the public about the status of investigations to “a reasonable extent”. There are several incidents where suspects were paraded before the media before even police were sure that they committed the crimes. Yet when later the matter is taken to court, the suspects get acquitted due to lack of evidence to pin them. But even with the acquittal, the suspect will have suffered the anger of public court, lost integrity among the right thinking people in the society and they can hardly win trust of their community.
The law of Uganda under Article 28 of the Constitution presumes that every human being is innocent until proven guilty. Parading suspects before the media is one way of convicting them before court pronounces itself on the matter. Therefore, the police legal team should work hand-in-hand with the investigating team and advise accordingly, otherwise, police is losing out.