Can Community Police Replace LCs?

In defence of his privately-sponsored Community Policing Bill, Yasini Omari, an LC-I chairperson of Muyenga Tank Hill, says: “We as a community should police ourselves and if a case is for police, we refer it to police.”

After testing the model in the Kampala suburb, Omari is convinced community policing is the surest way to reduce crime. He is, however, worried that without an elaborate policy, replication of the model in the 60,000 villages of Uganda would be difficult.

Recently, Omari presented the Community Policing Bill, 2014, a private citizen’s bill, to Speaker Rebecca Kadaga. But since Omari is not an MP and, therefore, cannot sponsor a private member’s bill, he is banking on the executive to adopt his proposal.

The bill proposes the establishment of a community policing unit and a revamp of the existing local council system. Omari urges the replacement of the LC-I committees with community policing committees. He argues that most local councils are dysfunctional and proposes that villages with efficient committees can have the chairperson take over as head of the policing unit.

Keep LCs

Omari’s proposal has already drawn praise and some criticism. The deputy chairperson of the Parliamentary Local Governments committee, Raphael Magyezi (Igara West), says the bill “as I know it does not seek to replace the [LC] committees” but warns the public not to misunderstand community policing.

On the other hand, police, a valuable partner, disagrees with Omari on the replacement of the LC-I committee with a policing committee. Police deputy Spokesperson Polly Namaye says the two institutions should instead co exist. She argues that it is wrong to replace village committees because they are elected leaders. Makerere University Senior Public Policy Lecturer Prof Yasin Olum agrees with Namaye.

“It is not correct to replace a people’s institutionorgan with an armed unit no matter its name. This will obviously lead to the militarization of politics at the local level [LC-1 level],” he said. He said the two units should operate separately “as long as it [Community Policing Unit] aims to serve the people.”

Co existence, Prof Olum argues, will make it difficult to distinguish between their unique roles crime prevention for the community policing unit and general administration for the LC executive.

Through the enactment of a law, and the subsequent adoption of the model, Omari is also optimistic that the uneasy cat-and-mouse relationship between the police and the public will improve. He reasons that the model will plant seeds of trust between the two parties, improve volunteering of information and reporting of crime by members of public.

If community policing is adopted, Omari is optimistic the crime rate will fall. But Olum says the success of the resultant act will depend on whether it is “well-conceived” and “what its intentions are”.

Motivation

Both Omari and Namaye say community policing committees should not be paid members should be motivated by the need to secure themselves. But Olum recommends an allowance for the committees to encourage them to do their work.

On this, the proponents of community policing could learn something from village health teams (VHTs). Although they are often formed with noble intentions, they fizzle out once an NGO or government project that pays some allowances ends.

Source : The Observer

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