Inspector General of Police Martins Okoth-Ochola over the weekend turned up the pressure on his officers, reminding them of previous warnings against engaging in acts of torture.
Ochola also named corruption inside the force as the biggest challenge confronting his administration. As such, he said, any officer caught on the wrong side of the law henceforth shall be held personally criminally liable for their actions.
“I won’t tolerate acts of hooliganism for as long as I am the IGP,” he said.
The scholarly police chief was speaking at the opening of the annual meeting of regional police commanders and heads of department held at Bwebajja Police College on February 11.
“Our achievements have been many but the challenges are equally several. The purpose of this message is to govern our policing activities which the institution encounters that include corrupt practices of selling police services like police bond, police forms, criminalisation of civil matters and extortion on roads,” he said.
Every year, Uganda’s police service is cited by both local and international rights groups as an institution notorious for human rights abuse, including the physical abuse of suspects and the use of disproportionate force against unarmed civilians, among other violations.
Therefore, Ochola said, his main focus is to rebuild and transform the force into a modern, professional institution which is service- oriented, pro-people and effective.
“You must apply constant effort to achieve quality in the performance of police activities to the satisfaction of the population that we are mandated to serve,” he said.
He also advised the officers to have good customer care, mostly for the individuals who get into contact with the public such as victims, witnesses or suspects, the vulnerable who may require support and assistance from the police.
Last year, Ochola stopped all police stations from selling police medical forms. His directive, however, has largely gone unheeded as most stations still ask complainants to buy the forms for between Shs 1,000 and Shs 2,000.
Others also still continue to extract unrecorded fees from suspects who seek bond. Besides corruption, Ochola cited general indiscipline, violation of human rights, laxity in handling assignments and inadequate staff welfare as some of the other difficulties faced by the force.
“We have capacity gaps in terms of professionalism in training, skills development, mindset, use of robust scientific methods of intelligence gathering and crime investigation, among others,” he said.