Can Data about police practice improve citizen-people relations with Uganda’s Police?

For those following developments about police practice in Uganda, less surprising the few months into 2017 have not been the best of moments for Uganda’s national force.

Image credit: GCN

Painting the Picture: What could the police be doing wrong?

In the concluded procurement and disposal audit on Uganda’s national force conducted by the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets Authority (PPDA), the custodians of law and order were qualified for Issuance of local purchase orders (LPOs) and contracts on expired bids, failure to state procurement timelines on the entity’s procurement plan amongst other opinions.

This could be a result of internal data management systems gone wrong! We can as well call it a data manipulation because, a well-managed data system promotes an integrated view of any institutions operations and a clearer view of the big picture. It becomes much easier to see how actions in one segment of the entity affects others. If only Uganda’s national force had one, probably LPOs would not be issued on expired bids. Despite the flows, the police budget has been steadily increasing over years, thanks to the Inspector General of Police. However, its un-justifiable if the budget increment is felt by the ordinary police officers since subject data is limited and/or un-found .

Contemplating about open data and data practice in the Uganda’s national force, the Inspector General of Police, General Kayihura in his foreword to Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) Sector Strategic Plan for Statistics for Uganda Police Force (2006/07–2010/11), highlighted that the statistical process in the Uganda Police is poor, inaccurate, uncoordinated and not time-sensitive. Ten years down his reign, the force is still experiencing the same data management theater.

Without good data management, exacerbated with increased opacity in the force’s operations, citizens could simply misinterpret and misunderstand Uganda’s police decisions and work ethics. Why? Because they will have ample time to stereotype and perceive. No wonder, our force is continuously ranking as one of the most corrupt institutions in Uganda, and the most corrupt East African Region institution according to the Transparency International East Africa Bribery Index. This is not because they are so badly off in that sphere, but could be because they do not adhere to open data, transparency and accountability practices by being closed-off from the public.

A glimpse into the force’s budget discipline depicts Fy 2017/2018 as one of their good years but, teargas tops priority on their budget with 44 billion Uganda shillings earmarked for the purchase of teargas to control crowds and UGX 51.1 bil­lion for handling post-election violence.

The time to find good solutions to these problems is now.

Uganda’s national force could do better only if it prioritizes data management, access to information and increased focus on transparency. In a transparent institution, data availability, combined with the tools that transform data into usable information, empowers end users to make quick, informed decisions that can make the difference between success and failure.

As custodians of law and order, the Uganda’s Police should invest in increasing access to information about their work, initiate mechanisms to increase the flow of public information on what police officers are doing in their official roles, how they are doing it, and how they are fulfilling their responsibility to ensure public safety. This will not only restore public trust and confidence in Uganda’s police but push them steps ahead into the transparency curve.

Originally published at dataadvocacy.wordpress.com on July 26, 2017.