It was on Thursday afternoon when Ibrahim Mugerwa dashed to Kira road police station to secure the release of his brother. Before speaking to his brother who had spent five days in police custody or the investigating officer, Mugerwa stormed the room with a photocopier to make copies of the bond papers.
"I want to be ready so I don't have to come back here to photocopy the forms," Mugerwa told URN.
About seven other people were in the queue waiting for their chance to photocopy their identity cards and bond papers for their friends or relatives who are about to be released on police bond.
For those photocopying the bond papers, Shs 600 is nothing compared to getting out their loved ones out of the police cells. Some are even willing to pay more than Shs 50,000 to secure the bond, which is officially free of charge. Photocopying bond papers is big business for the operators at numerous police stations across the country.
A source at Kira road police station told URN, the photocopiers fetches a profit of an average of Shs 40,000 on a daily basis. The source at the station says that on a good day, the photocopier fetches up to Shs 50,000 in profit and on a bad day Shs 30,000.
According to police standing orders, all forms and letters are free at police stations are free of charge. No person should be charged to buy or photocopy them. While these forms are budgeted for, procured and distributed to all police stations, it has become a habit for police officers to ask unsuspecting people to buy them or go to a nearby photocopier and photocopy them.
They include among others bond papers, medical examination forms and letters for different purpose people secure from police. Police spokesperson, Emilian Kayima, says most of the officers who ask people to buy or photocopy the forms are beneficiaries of the profits arising from the business.
“Many times you’re asked to go and photocopy. They give you an original copy to go and photocopy and bring back the original or you go to the photocopy and buy it. Now that signifies two things, either the photocopy is for the officer or he has personal benefit from it as somebody who brings personal business. That is possible. We have addressed that by asking unit commanders to collect as many forms as possible and some have done that, many have not done that,” said Kayima.
Every year, police procures stationary worthy more than Shs 500 million. The Directorate of Logistics and Engineering then prints millions of forms that are picked up by police commanders from each region. The forms are then distributed to the district and police divisions depending on their needs.
Even though most police stations don't have printers and/or photocopiers, each station is also given reams of plain paper to cater for emergencies. Some unit commanders however, either deliberately keep away the forms or simply never pick them at all from the directorate.
Kayima says any money paid for a police service must be banked otherwise, exchange of money between a client and a police officer is illegal.
“Even then, you pay through the bank. Any amount of money that anybody pays to an individual police officer is wasted money. They have cheated you, they have cheated you and you need to stand up against that. That is one is treated as a bribe and both of you are culpable - the giver and the receiver. Question is, who is going to complain?” Kayima added.
Most of the photocopier businesses in the police premises and nearby areas, are owned by different people with connections within the force. At some police stations, it is the wives or relatives of police commanders who have been working at the station for a long time but at others especially the most lucrative ones like Kampala Central police station are owned by people connected to the top police management.