By Michael Woira
Police and its officers are always here to protect and save us when we are in danger. They can even be role models and heroes. They risk their lives daily for people they don’t even know. Lately, it is rare to turn on the news without hearing about another police officer being shamed for doing his or her job. With the increasing number of deaths and altercations between police officers and citizens, also increasing is the pressure put on officers to justify their actions by fellow Ugandans or the different arms of government in this case mainly Parliament and the public opinion court.
There needs to be mutual respect between citizens and law enforcement officers. Disrespecting officers and encouraging the stigma against law enforcement only increases the severity of the tension between citizens and police by forcing officers into defensive positions. There is no doubt that some officers abuse their position of authority like the recent saga where some high ranking officer has decided to spill all the secrets of the Force where he has been working for some good years, but the vast majority of officers work their hardest to help maintain safe and law abiding communities. With this in mind, citizens and police have a shared responsibility to their communities.
Police officers have a responsibility to enforce laws in a fair and equal manner, and citizens have a responsibility to educate themselves about the laws and respect the authority that enforces them other than taking it for granted that it’s only police that is responsible for making sure they are secure and safe in their homes. However, through preforming and supporting disrespectful acts aimed at insulting and sometimes harming law enforcement, citizens are failing in their responsibility toward their community. Incidences where some citizens have failed police operations have happened recently in Kampala where plain uniformed people under the umbrella of Boda Boda 2010, have committed many atrocities in the name of helping police and reaching an extent of undermining the police force and its leaders in the name of being the untouchable.
It is important to recognize that while police officers are responsible for law enforcement, they are also normal people. Even if a person cannot understand and respect the honor of a law enforcement official, they should respect and empathize with an officer on the basis that every person deserves respect.
The media is partially responsible for society’s inability to recognize the police force as regular people. Most news stories that include police officers are about horrible events that do not represent the profession as a whole. Media can all be awash with stories of police officers incase anything bad happens and its committed by an officer, the media makes it look like it’s the worst among all crimes committed by the other Ugandans. Those who read and watch these news stories must keep in mind that the media only recounts stories of rare events and mistakes. It does not focus on stories that give a more accurate portrayal of the police force because that is not considered as news.
I sometimes keep wondering why the media will never balance the negative occurrences with the far more frequent, positive actions of police officers. This failure to accurately portray officers has allowed the public to envision law enforcement as a completely malicious establishment and many have lost respect for these men in uniform. Many Ugandans no longer have respect for these officers in that at many times I see Ugandans throwing stones at them, abusing them and calling them all sorts of names but they are so important in the communities we leave in, they are the people who sacrifice to be on duty as you sleeping, they keep running up and down chasing after crimininals, they never get chance to have enough time with their families but all this is because they are the number one patriotic citizens who wish peace and security for the country.
The writer is a patriotic Ugandan