Police worried at rate it is sued

Inspector General of Police (IGP) Martin Okoth Ochola.

The Uganda Police Force top management is worried about the increasing law suits members of the public are filing against the Force and some individual police officers.

During yesterday’s half-day workshop on ‘Understanding Civil Litigation from a Police Perspective,” the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Martin Okoth Ochola, said although it is difficult to measure the nature and extent of victim actions against police or its administrators, there are substantial indications that civil litigations against the Force and the consequent effect to its personnel have also increased.

He cited such incidents that give rise to civil litigation against police as misuse of firearms, unlawful arrests, search and seizure, poor responses to complaints and illegal detentions among others.

The police boss reiterated that institutional consequences of civil suits include financial costs and bad publicity even if the suits are successfully defended.

“Civil litigation can also have consequences for the individual officers involved including financial costs, psychological stress and reluctance to perform policing tasks that carry a high risk of civil liability.”

However, Mr Ochola revealed that the Force has instituted a number of policies to manage the risk.

“As Uganda Police Force management, we have instituted a number of policies and procedures to manage and minimise the risk of civil litigation including but not limited to appropriate personnel selection procedures, training, sensitisation and supervision,” he continued.

Speaking during the same workshop, the Director of Legal Services Assistant Inspector General of Police (AIGP) Erasmus Twaruhuuka, remarked that in the last few years, civil suits against government arising out of police actions have increased greatly.

“This might be because of two reasons: Police is becoming unprofessional and undisciplined and people are also becoming more aware of their rights for justice. The rate at which police is sued is alarming which does not only give the Force a bad name but also leads to an award of monetary damages that we may not be able to pay.”

The AIGP said that majority of the cases could have been avoided “and it is unfortunate some of them can never be won however researched the arguments before court are.”

Mr Twaruhuuka said that most of the cases arise from detention beyond 48 hours and others are from allegations of torture.

“It should be noted that some cases we could have won are lost because of failure on our part as police to give instructions to the Attorney General as well as failure to give the relevant reports, files and witnesses in time for the defence,” he said.

The workshop was organised at the police headquarters Naguru between the force’s top management, Human Resource, Legal Service Department and the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs.

Recently, police management also instituted mechanisms that discipline, demote, terminate the employment of, and in some cases charge criminal cases against individual police officers whose conduct does not rise to the performance level expected.

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