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Tuesday,November 13,2018 08:27 AM

What if Police were disbanded?

By David Mukholi

Added 3rd August 2016 06:19 PM

In case of any breach of the law, it would be upon the victim to report to the station. It also means whoever is hurt or loses property during processions or demonstrations have the onus of reporting to Police

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In case of any breach of the law, it would be upon the victim to report to the station. It also means whoever is hurt or loses property during processions or demonstrations have the onus of reporting to Police

The Police have come under a barrage of attack following the unwarranted beating of Forum for Democratic Change (FDC) supporters. After their leader, Dr. Kizza Besigye was granted bail in the treason trial, FDC supporters lined up the streets to cheer him and also attempted to organise a procession. But Police responded with whips that left several writhing in pain.

Some were severely injured and have petitioned court. Since July 12 and 13 when the FDC supporters were whipped, Police have been in the spotlight. Sections of the public have condemned the act and so did Parliament in a resolution passed but also urged Ugandans to respect the rule of law.

Although it maintains law and order, the attacks have projected the Police as good for nothing. If Ugandans are that angry with the Police there are two choices to make to end errant behaviour by Police officers in course of duty. One is to disband the Uganda Police Force (UPF) and call in the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) to carry out Police work because the vacuum has to be filled.

In the past days as Police were scorned and criticised, the army was extolled as a professional and friendly force. Gone are the days when army men terrorised civilians. They were above the law and hence untouchable. They turned the army into a terror institution in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. Today it is different. The army, hence the men and women serving it, is not only disciplined but also subordinate to civilian authority in accordance to the Constitution. So, it is tempting to consider getting the UPDF to do UPF work and send the Police officers home or for a one-year re-orientation and professional training.

The army will then have to be in charge of protecting life and property; preserving law and order and preventing and detecting crime. As a result we will have men and women in green patrolling the streets, going after pickpockets, responding to robbery and investigating crime.

Without considering the challenges of policing many would think that since the army, today, is more malleable it would make a suitable replacement — and probably do a better job. There is a point because it is during the time when army officers are at the helm of Police that the institution has progressed attracting university graduates, well-equipped and performed better in executing its mandate. Ironically it is during the tenure of a General that it has come under bashing for brutality, which is only amplified by critics when inflicted on political activities and supporters but not suspects in common crimes.

The other option is getting the Police off the streets. Instead of having them patrolling, station the personnel at Police stations. Probably this would reduce the interface between the Police and the public to avert any ugly scenes. They should stay put even when there is a riot or demonstration. Because if deployed to quell such activities their actions could escalate into brutality especially in cases where rioters or demonstrators do not respect lawful orders.

In case of any breach of the law, it would be upon the victim to report to the station. It also means whoever is hurt or loses property during processions or demonstrations have the onus of reporting to Police. The above two choices provide unacceptable scenarios. If the army were to take over Police duty there would be an uproar.

The argument, rightly so, would be the army should be in the barrack and since Uganda is not a military state the UPDF has no business on the streets. On the other hand restricting the Police to the stations would be a recipe for chaos and in effect would be failing its duty of keeping law and order.

Only a day of Police absence would be disastrous, which confirms that they have a role to play. They could have battered Besigye’s supporters publicly and demonstrated gross unprofessionalism but they have also averted and solved many crimes. It is in their bid to avert chaos, crime and ensure law and order Police inadvertently find themselves in politics.

The opposition, especially Besigye, has lured the entire force into politics and ensnared it for a bashing. Besigye is neither Police’s problem nor opponent.  But over the years it seems he has become police’s problems and has successfully projected police as his problem.

 His party, FDC, fielded him as a presidential candidate in the February 18 election to contest against the National Resistance Movement and President Yoweri Museveni, its flag-bearer. So, Besigye is a political issue but clever as he is, using his defiance campaign to breach the law or threaten to and Police responds highhandedly. So he or his supporters get publicity as victims of Police brutality and the force’s image is dented. Consequently the Police’s other duties and successes are eclipsed by handling Besigye and its work narrowed to this political issue.

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