Community policing or policing the community: The challenges and prospects of community policing in South Sudan
By Akuot Aquila Apiu, Juba, South Sudan
Tuesday, June 25, 2019 (PW) — Community oriented policing is a proactive philosophy that promotes solving problems that are either criminal, affect the quality of life, or increase citizens fear of crime. It involves identifying, analyzing and addressing community problems at their source. Strategies involve in community policing include community partnership, problem solving and change management. However, in South Sudan, we are saddled with major challenges of policing.
These are manpower shortage; inadequate funding, corruption, inadequate logistic support and infrastructure, lack of serviceable information and technological equipment to cover all the areas of the State are responsible for the current state of the police. Therefore, it is recommended that there should be serious retraining towards attitudinal change and professional efficiency and proficiency among both the rank and file and other officer cadre of the police.
Community policing is anchored on a systematic relationship between the police and the entire citizenry. Police roles and functions are not simply law enforcement but also include tackling a huge range of community problems. The transition from traditional policing to community policing is a global phenomenon and the South Sudan police cannot be an exception. Indeed, community policing as a philosophy and practice is a veritable vehicle for police reforms.
The South Sudan police Act 2009 embraced community policing as a pragmatic approach to police reforms. The stage was indeed set for a clear departure from traditional policing, that was reactive and incident based, to a problem – solving oriented policing that is proactive with the community as the cornerstone of policing objectives.
Like several other nations world over, South Sudan police force embraced the philosophy of community policing on the principle that in a democratic society, the police are interested by their fellow citizens to protect and serve the public’s fundamental rights to liberty, equality and justice under the law. To fulfil that privileged role, the police must be a part of, not apart from, the communities they serve.
Community policing is a paradigm shift that seeks to focus on constructive engagement with people who are the end users of the police service and re – negotiate the contract between the people and the police thereby making the community co – producers of justice and a quality police service. The most recent attempt made by the South Sudan police force to improve its performance was the introduction of community policing programme in 2009.
This was part of the Force’s effort to change policing to a modern and professional policing capable of providing maximum security of lives and property. Community oriented policing is a proactive philosophy that promotes solving problems that are either criminal, affect the quality of life, or increase citizens fear of crime. It involves identifying, analyzing and addressing community problems at their source.
Police are organized to defend and preserve the interests of the dominant groups and classes in society. Consequently, the significance of police as either facilitators or inhibitors of change initiatives will depend on the character of their society. In a totalitarian and economically inequitable society, police role will be more to defend the status quo of political oppression and economic injustice. In contrast, in a democratic society the police are more likely to provide services that will enhance development and democracy
Strategies for Community Policing
Community policing perspective differs in a number of ways from a traditional policing perspective. In community policing, the police must share power with residents of a community, and critical decisions need to be made at the neighborhood level. Achieving the goals of community policing requires successful implementation of three essential and complimentary components or operational strategies: community partnership, problem solving, and change management.
Community Partnership: Establishing and maintaining mutual trust between citizens of a community and the police is the main goal of the first component of community policing. Police have always recognized the need for cooperation with the community and have encouraged members of the community to come forward with crime-fighting information. The police no longer view community as a passive presence connected to the police by an isolated incident or series of incidents. The community’s concerns with crime and disorder become the target of efforts by the police and the community working together.
Problem Solving: Problem solving requires a lot more thought, energy, and action than traditional incidents-based police responses to crime and disorder. In full partnership, the police and a community’s residents and business owners identify core problems, propose solutions, and implement a solution. Thus, community members identify the concerns that they feel are most threatening to their safety and well-being. Those areas of concern then become priorities for joint police-community interventions. For this problem-solving process to operate effectively, the police need to devote time and attention to discovering community’s concerns, and they need to recognize the validity of those concerns.
Change Management: Forging community policing partnerships and implementing problem-solving strategies necessitates assigning new responsibilities and adopting a flexible style of management. Traditionally, patrol officers have been accorded lower status in police organizations and have been dominated by the agency’s command structure. Community policing, in contrast, emphasizes the value of the patrol function and the patrol officer as an individual. It requires the shifting of initiative, decision making, and responsibility downward within the police organization. The officer must become responsible for managing the delivery of police services to the community. Patrol officers are the most familiar with the needs and concern of their communities and are in the best position to forge the close ties with the community that lead to effective solutions to local problems.
Under community policing, police management must guide, rather than dominate (which is not the case now). The actions of the patrol officer must ensure that they have the necessary resources to solve the problems in their communities. Management must determine the guiding principles to convert the philosophy of the agency to community policing and then to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies implemented.
Challenges to Community Policing in South Sudan
Despite numerous efforts by various police administrations to curtail the level of crime in South Sudan, crime and social disorder still persist in the country. Thousands of lives and millions of pound worth of property are being lost as a result of one crime or the other. Some believed that the inability of the South Sudan police to ensure maximum security in the country is as a result of so many social and technical constraints, among which are lack of equipment and sour relationship between police and public.
Corruption: Wide spread corruption in the police force is fueling abuses against ordinary citizens and severely undermining the rule of law in South Sudan on a daily basis. Countless ordinary citizens are accosted by armed police officers who demand bribes and commit human rights abuses against them as a means of extorting money. These abuses range from ordinary arrest and unlawful detention to threats and acts of violence, including sexual assault, torture, and even extrajudicial killings (Human Rights watch,).
Police is not unique. Corruption exists in South Sudan police force much the same as it does in any other police organization the world over, except perhaps, in terms of its extent and the organization’s reaction to it. However, the issue of corruption in the South Sudan police as noted above cannot be treated in isolation of the larger society.
Police routinely extort money from victims of crimes to initiate investigations and demand bribes from suspects to drop investigations. Corruption in the police is so endemic that it has eroded public trust and confidence they have in the police. To achieve any success in combating corruption in the South Sudan police one has to take a holistic approach and most importantly understanding the growth and existence of corruption within the police.
Institutional Constraints: According to allegations levelled against the institution and its personnel, some of which have proven to be true, include arbitrariness in exercising its power, corruption, perversion of justice, and delays in the administration of justice. Various factors have been blamed as constituting a stumbling block to the effective administration of justice and efficient maintenance of law and order in South Sudan.
Other factors are inadequate manpower (both in strength and expertise), insufficient education and training, inadequate equipment, and poor conditions of service of the average policeman. The long-term failure of the authorities to address police bribery, extortion, and wholesale embezzlement threatens the basic rights of all South Sudanese. Therefore, good policy is the bedrock for the rule of law and public safety.
The police is arguably the most visible agent of government and citizens often assess the character of a government through its police force. This is because the police are the “guardians” of society. To a large extent, the growth , action and behavior of the police as an institution not only reflect the political and economic character of society, but also mirror what those in power are willing or able to tolerate or condone or perhaps even demand of the police.
Police Perception: Another important factor that has been neglected for many times is the perception of the police force itself by the police officers. Questions that readily come to mind are: What is police officer’s perception of the citizens they claimed to be serving? What is the perception of citizens to police officers in South Sudan? To be frank, the image of police in the eyes of South Sudanese is bad arising from all the factors enumerated above.
Military Orientation: The police as it is now came out of a military administration. That is probably the biggest challenge we face – turning it from a force into a service.
Godfatherism: is an endemic problem in South Sudan, which the police still battle with. Godfatherism is the funding and abetting of vices and shielding “connected” criminals from justice by government agents and highly placed officials entrusted with the power and authority to investigate and prosecute such vices. It has become a dominant issue in African polity and impedes the course of justice in virtually all the countries in Africa.
Furthermore, many highly placed public officers in South Sudan are known to pervert the course of justice by the virtue of their closeness to the seat of power. Often, the police get sucked in, and this accounts for their complicity in several unresolved crimes across the country.
Many of these problem in the South Sudan police force are self – evident and have been sources of serious concern to the public, governments, police authorities and officials, the mass media and human rights organization in the country. What is required is a determination to address the problems.
The knowledge of human rights among the majority of policemen is poor. This might be as a result of the long period of military struggle. Although policemen are taught the principles of the rule of law, in reality this is not put into practice because military rule does not recognize the rule of law. In the new democratic dispensation, policemen should be given intensive on-the-job training on citizens’ fundamental rights which they must uphold at all times.
Community Policing and Community Development in South Sudan.
As noted above, security is crucial to the community and constitutes one of the important social services provided through community development. In other words, it requires the cooperation of the government and the community. Communities cannot handle matters of security alone it requires the cooperation of the security agents like the police. Conversely, the police cannot ensure security or tackle crime alone, it requires partnering with the community.
Security is very essential to community development because both life and property have to be safeguarded for development to occur. No development, not even community development for that matter can take place where there are no peace, law and order. Security does not only facilitate development, it is one of the features or ingredients of development that is to say that it is co-extensive with development.
Community policing as implemented in South Sudan has not ensured security and safety in South Sudan let alone facilitate community development. Rather than community policing, the South Sudan police has been busy policing the community alienating the people more. Thus, insecurity, crimes and disorder have scared investors away from South Sudan, crippled economic activities and hindered development in the communities. So long as the South Sudan Police Force engages in policing the community instead of partnering with the community in matters of security, safety and development in the communities will continue to elude South Sudan.
The South Sudan police force has not met the minimum demands of democratic policing which cardinal elements are “Justice, equality, accountability, and efficiency” These elements imply the following: Justice means that all individuals ought to be treated fairly and their rights are respected. Equality means, first, that all…ought to received policing service sufficient to feel safe in their community.
Equality also means that there ought to be representative participation from all members of society in the delivery of policing services. i.e. that it requires equal and inclusive security forces. Accountability means that the actions of a body aresubjected and that there are formal channels that individuals can use to lodge a complaint. Finally, efficiency means that services are provided in a cost effective manner.
To enhance community policing in South Sudan, I recommended that: There should be serious retraining towards attitudinal change and professional efficiency and proficiency among both the rank and file and other officer cadre of the police. There is need for the police to improve its public relationship. They should see South Sudanese as their fellow human beings who deserve to be treated with a high level of courtesy and decorum.
The National Government should as a matter of urgency equip the police with ultra-modern arms and ammunitions as well as security gadgets. This has become necessary now more than ever to enable the force fight the gruesome scourge of armed robbery and orchestrated kidnappings ravaging the entire length and breadth of the country.
South Sudanese should help the police to discharge their duties optimally. They could do this through giving vital information to them on the activities of undesirable elements in the society. Such invaluable information could help the police to perform creditably.
The police should be shielded from political appointments (though not possible now). The role of law enforcement in any civilized society is to serve and protect the citizens. This is because political appointments corrupt the officials, destroy spirit de corps, skew their sense of neutrality and impartiality, and infuse a sense of allegiance to appointing authority. It is a major obstacle to police effectiveness and must be discouraged at all cost if improved police performance must be achieved.
There is the need for Government to steadily increase logistic funding, so that the police can work towards attaining the standard patrol practice of developed countries. There should be a massive injection of funds into the police force so that operational and logistics equipment can be acquired.
Crime in our society has become rather sophisticated. The police should, therefore, acquire up-to-date weapons and equipments, which it deems necessary for the successful performance of its duties.
There should be an improvement in the conditions of services of policemen. This will go a long way in removing any justification or predisposing circumstances for corrupt practices or the extortion of the public in the performance of their duties. The living conditions of policemen should be improved. Policemen live in barracks built several years ago which are poorly maintained.
Police authorities should put in place structures to motivate honest, dedicated and hardworking policemen. Promotion should be giving to deserving officers as at when due. This is because denial of promotion is a major cause of the low morale and that seems to have permeated and pervaded the entire force.
There is every need to reposition the police in South Sudan to conform to what is obtainable in other countries of the world. Security is a very sensitive issue and no nation can afford to toy with it. Corruption has eaten deep into the fabric of South Sudan society and seems intractable, but the situation can be remedied given disciplined and forthright leadership and a citizenry that is united in its resentment to corruption.
The police force as an institution is one that the South Sudanese society cannot do without. It is however, necessary that in-depth and comprehensive reforms be carried out within it to make it a force that will satisfactorily discharge its constitutional duties without alienating, or making itself an enemy of South Sudanese people.
The author, 1st Lt Akuot Aquila Apiu, is a degree holder from University of Juba, College of Education, Majoring in Geography and History. He is a former teaching assistant at Upper Nile University, and currently 1st Lt in South Sudan police service. He is a holder of cadet officer certificate from police academy kabalye Masindi, Uganda. He is also the founder of community policing and justice forum (CPJF) an organization that mobilizes resources to support, enhance community and police relationship, peace building and human right awareness. You can reach the author via his email: Akuot Aquila <email@example.com>
The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to firstname.lastname@example.org. PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.