Police welfare acutely lacking, says new report

Police welfare acutely lacking, says new report
Courtesy photo.

Police are too busy enforcing law and order to enforce their own welfare, a new study says, adding that with only 23% of the officers okay with the kennel-like offices they work from.

The study titled ‘Squeezing water out of a stone’ conducted between February and July 2022 in 28 police regions, covering 75 districts indicates that whereas some officers have office structures, a big number stay in dilapidated office structures.

“Only 23% of the respondents indicated that their office space was sufficient. The 62% who reported insufficient space revealed that, most of the police stations/posts lacked space for particular offices such as CID, Field Force Unit, Child and Family Protection Unit, armoury, exhibit store, radio room, suspects’ cells, health unit and CCTV room, among others and as such they opted to improvise or share. Some police units had improvised with arms chests in lieu of the armoury and grass-thatched huts in lieu of permanent structures,” the report says.

Office supplies

The study indicates that only 49% of police officer have full staff uniform, 45% stationery and 33% fuel, oil and lubricants whereas only 16% get  food ration and 6% meals on duty.

“Those who said they had other supplies such as police forms (PF3, PF18, statement forms) reflector jackets, SD (station Diaries) books, warm suits, plain clothes allowance, soap and sanitary towels for female suspects, blankets and mattresses for SGBV victims and weather jackets were only 16%. Majority (80%) of these said the supplies were insufficient, 11% said they were partly sufficient and only 6% said they were sufficient. The supplies were a challenge in police posts and some police stations because they had no budgetary allocation for imprest. RPCs, DPCs, some OC stations were said to be receiving office imprest ranging from shs300,000 to shs 2,000,000 per quarter, which was inadequate given the number of stations/posts and the districts covered by each,” the report says.

“ Most supplies such as stationery and fuel were used up in the first month of the quarter. Consequently, police personnel improvised using their own money from their meagre pay to buy some supplies while others depended on the support and good will of well-wishers such as community members, politicians, religious organisations, schools, district/sub-county local government offices, NGOs and local business owners. In some stations/posts police personnel would request clients/suspects or their relatives to photocopy PF3 or PF18 before they were rendered services.”

Accommodation problem

With a strength of 54000, police needs at least 33000 housing units to cater for its personnel around the country since the current houses were built during colonial time.

On the other hand, many officers sleep in uniports, many of which are dilapidated and need repairs.

The force recently opened 420 new apartments for officers at Naguru police headquarters but these are just a drop in the ocean .

Of the 54000 police personnel, at least 12000 stay and work in the greater Kampala Metropolitan Area but most of these have to either sleep in barracks which have dilapidated houses and uniports or rent outside the barracks.

It has been argued by many that the poor state of housing for officers affects the way they carry out their work since they sleep badly.

The latest study by the Uganda Human Rights Commission has further re-echoed similar sentiments about the housing problem for police officers.

The study says only 29% of police officers live in decent housing.

“At least 33% live in dilapidated structures, 2% in makeshift accommodation and 32% in moderately decent housing. The study found that even the 32% that described their housing as moderately decent were just comparing with their colleagues who lived in makeshift structures, otherwise the institutional accommodation was largely dilapidated, with shared rooms partitioned by either curtains or makeshift boards; condemned structures unfit for human habitation, uniports which are very uncomfortable,” the report says.

“Some personnel opted to live in their homes or voluntarily rent outside institutional accommodation in order to find family time and try to live a decent life, while others especially juniors were displaced from institutional accommodation by senior personnel and any complaint regarding this would have repercussions.  The personnel who were officially living outside the barracks raised concerns about their personal security at their places of residence, high rental charges and the challenge of finding decent accommodation that does not put the police force in disrepute.”

The study indicates that the distance between residences and workplaces impacted on availability of personnel at the workplace for efficient service delivery.

“ Whereas 92% were found to live relatively near their duty stations (0-3km), 5% lived between 3-8kms away, while 3% lived more than 8kms away even up to 14kms. Uganda Police Force does not facilitate their staff with organised transport to and from work yet they are on call 24/7. The few that had official transport were struggling with the challenge of inadequate facilitation for fuel.”

Commenting about the report, the Uganda Human Rights Commission chairperson, Mariam Wangadya said the accommodation problem for police is dire and needs to be addressed.

“Our prayer is that urgent action is taken on the recommendations as detailed in the report to enable the UPF integrate the human rights-based approach in all its policy development, implementation, evaluation and review. We appeal to Parliament to enhance the budgetary allocation to the UPF to enable it raise the working and living conditions of personnel and facilitate proper conduct of work and observance of the human rights of everyone,” Wangadya said.

The Inspector General of Police, John Martins Okoth Ochola said  that whereas  good working conditions contribute to the wellbeing of the police personnel and determines the quality of the service police officers, there are other factors contributing to this state of affairs.

“It is also true that salaries and the general welfare of police officers are not the only factors contributing to the quality of the policing services and the observance of human rights. The police force has unwaveringly remained committed to upholding human rights in all aspects of our operations, not only as a legal requirement but also as our fundamental responsibility,” Ochola said.

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