This equipment will be housed at the forensics laboratory at Uganda Police Head Quarters in Naguru, Kampala.
Uganda Police Force deputy director Forensic Services, Samuel Ezati at Naguru Forensic Centre. Photo by Kennedy Oryema
The East African Community (EAC) member countries are set to receive a state-of-the-art Integrated Ballistics Identification System (IBIS).
This equipment will be housed at the forensics laboratory at Uganda Police Head Quarters in Naguru, Kampala. This will serve as the Regional Forensic Referral Centre (RFRC).
The RFRC was designated through a proposal by the EAC Police Chiefs in 2011 as a regional centre of excellence on forensic science.
The equipment will be received from Ultra Electronics Forensic Technology of Dublin, Ireland at a cost of 897,553 Euros (about sh3.5b), according to Richard Othieno, the Head of the Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Department at the EAC Secretariat.
Senior Commissioner of Police and Deputy Director Forensic Services, Samuel Ezati confirmed to New Vision that the equipment will arrive this month.
"The system will help us identify firearms against existing references in the firearms database of different makes and models. It will also help us store information about physical characteristics of firearms for example the manufacturer, serial number, among other identifying features," he explained.
According to him, the system will also help police maintain any inventory of firearm owners. "It has a search tool to query the firearms database for manufacturers, makes of firearms, models, calibre of the bullet and serial number," he revealed.
The system also has the ability to collect and store 2D and 3D images of cartridge cases and bullets from registered firearms.
It also performs automatic and manual correlations in firearms cycles. "A firearms cycle is a relationship between the manufacturer of firearms, importer/exporter, customs agencies, retailers and resellers, firearms owners, firearm data entry analysts, law enforcement and then firearms examiners and experts," he explained.
Ezati also stated that the system can be used to analyse the correlation results and compare images and generate reports. He believes this will help solve very many unresolved cases involving firearms.
"It is going to help us greatly for example the cartridges or bullets recovered from crime scenes will be compared against a wide database because apart from our local database generated here, we shall share information with member states' forensic labs. That means we shall be able to track any firearm from any of the member states," he explained.
AIGP Asan Kasingye, the Director Interpol and International Relations also revealed that the force is in the process of also acquiring an Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) which will be used together with the IBIS.
"Previously when we have had cases that need to be investigated with the help of these systems, we have had to take the evidence to countries like the USA and South Africa and this was delaying investigations," he explained.
He added that with the increase of crime by use of arms and terrorism in the region, it is pertinent that such systems be available to facilitate quick and thorough testing of forensic evidence in a bid to keep the region safe.
"Much as the acquisition of the equipment is going to make Uganda a Regional Forensic Referral Centre, it will also help the 13 East African Police Chiefs Organisation (EAPCO) countries including; Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Sudan, Eritrea, among the rest," he added.
The EAC along with COMESA, IGAD and Indian Ocean Commission have been implementing a joint cross regional project aimed at curbing maritime insecurity in the Indian Ocean.
The project, whose implementation commenced in 2013, was a response to acts of maritime piracy that had bedevilled the Somali Coastline and by extension the Indian Ocean. It received EU support to the tune of 37.5 million Euros (sh144.7b) spread over a five year period.
The EAC component includes among others enhancement of investigative capabilities of the investigative authorities in the Eastern and Southern African-Indian Ocean (ESA-IO) region to effectively investigate maritime insecurity incidents.
To this extent and acknowledging the use of firearms as a primary facilitator of criminal incidents, there was expressed need for establishment of modern ballistic examination and analysis capabilities. The acquisition of the IBIS has been funded by the Project.
The equipment, which comprises a Bulletrax Station, a Brasstrax Station, a Match Point plus Station, a Data and Correlation Station and a Server was subjected to rigorous pre-shipment inspection and pre-testing by a team from the EAC Secretariat and RFRC on 28th November, this year in compliance with the contractual terms.
The Secretariat team led by the EAC Peace and Security Expert, Mr. Leonard Onyonyi, the Head of the RFRC in Kampala, Samuel Ezati and the Head of Ballistics at the RFRC, Ag. Commissioner of Police, Umar Mutuya were in Dublin, Ireland concluding the exercise on 29th November. The equipment will soon be shipped to Uganda.
The Commissioning of the IBIS is expected to take place in February 2017 after which partner states will as they may deem necessary take advantage of the facility for analytical purposes.
This is the only second such equipment within the EAC, the other being operated by the Kenya Police Service. The facility will also be used to impart ballistics training for partner states deficient of the capacity.