The issue: Cleaning up directorate of Traffic.
Our view: Ideal as it might sound, the public needs to be made to understand that it has a duty to refuse to encourage corrupt tendencies by ensuring that road and safety regulations are followed.
The Directorate of Traffic and Road Safety has withdrawn more than 700 traffic police officers from the roads as the Force tries to deal with allegations of corruption among its rank and file.
According to the spokesperson of the directorate, Mr Charles Ssebambulidde, the action followed a directive that President Museveni issued in March calling for action against officers cited in cases of extortion, soliciting bribes and other violations of the Police Force’s code of conduct, ethics and standards.
The disciplinary measures have resulted in manpower shortages as the number of men on the streets has dropped from the required 2,000 to about 1,000 now, which has sparked off fears that initiatives such as Fika Salaama and Tembeya Pole Pole, which had been initiated to help deal with the carnage on the roads, will soon collapse, which would cause a reversal in the gains so far made.
The withdrawal has also resulted in congestion on the roads. The fears are genuine and need to be addressed.
The inconvenience of congestion is, however, a small price to pay especially if it will help clean the police and rid it of rogue elements. The directorate should, therefore, be commended for taking this much needed step. However, a lot more needs to be done.
The Police Force is yet to acquire body cameras, which would make it easier for it to deal with some of its unscrupulous officers who employ sophisticated ways of soliciting bribes. As the country waits for resources to be made available to the Force to acquire the appropriate technology, it is important that the Force enlists the support of the public in its effort to clean up.
During his tenure as Inspector General of Police, Gen Katumba Wamala reached out to the public in order to raise funds to help the police purchase patrol vehicles and trucks. The move helped to improve the Force’s ability to deal with crime. That is proof that a partnership between the police and the public is possible and that it yields results.
While the public may not be called on again to help the Force acquire cameras, it can have a role to play by way of recording and reporting corrupt tendencies. With social media, such videos can go viral and spark debate and action against errant officers.
Ideal as it might sound, the public needs to be made to understand that it has a duty to refuse to encourage corrupt tendencies by ensuring that road and safety regulations are followed. This calls for a major public awareness campaign.