When the government of Uganda released a report ranking the Police Force as the most corrupt institution in Western Uganda, a native NGO called the National Foundation for Democracy and Human Rights (NAFODU) responded with a series of measures to bring changes in the ways the Police Force is operated in order to restore public trust and confidence in the institution.
At the recently held 14th International Anti-Corruption Conference in Bangkok (IACC), the NGO explained its method of using a two-pronged approach in addressing police corruption in Western Uganda. It worked with the Police in promoting justice and fairness in their dealings with the public while also working with citizens to reduce police abuses through information campaigns. The NGO held meetings with the Police Forces in Five Districts of Western Uganda, which established that there is a shared interest by both the Police and the NGO to address corrupt Police practices in the region. As a follow-up, the NGO provided refresher training to the Police Force in the respective districts on their codes of conduct, performance within the police community and basic standards of behavior to the public. In the meantime, the NGO conducted information campaigns to raise citizen awareness of laws governing the Police and their duties and obligations to the public.
In order to assess the nature of corruption and identify loopholes in Police Force regulations, NAFAODU conducted citizens’ surveys in the 5 selected districts of its program interventions. The NGO plans to do another survey at the end of their project to determine if there have been any improvements in areas that were identified in the survey as particularly problematic. In the meantime, the NGO has mobilized citizen bodies and vigilance committees to track the conduct and behavior of the police officers in the respective districts. A forum has also been made available for citizens to register complaints of corruption, and a series of radio broadcasts have been aired to promote public engagement and information exchange on laws governing the affairs of the Police Force and their duties toward citizens.
NAFODU acknowledges that the task of reforming corrupt practices in the Police Force is ambitious, but it believes that public trust in the institution can indeed be restored by working with the Police Force and the public separately and together. At the IACC, the NGO called on the government to ensure that the Police Force is provided with adequate resources (both managerial and financial) to improve police community services and discourage petty corruption among officers. The presenter did add, however, that the "low pay the officers receive should not be a reason to convert the police stations into extortion and exploitation grounds."
The discussion that followed the NGO presentation highlighted the need for civil societies engaged in police and judicial reform to be highly professional, disciplined and constructive in their work, in particular reaching out to and working with reform champions in goverment or the power elite. It also expressed the need for the vigilance and monitoring work to be "scrupulously accurate" in order to gain respect and support from officials and public alike.
Photo Credit: Anna Batcheller