On 26th – 03- 2008, there was a one-day workshop to sensitise Community Policing Committees (CPC’s) in Kigali. A New Times Reporter talked to Superintendent Bosco Rutishisha and interviewed him on the new programme.
Question: What is community policing? This is a new thing and people are not really well acquainted with it.
Answer: Community policing is a philosophy that involves the community. It involves a close cooperation between the police and the community with an overall aim of crime prevention.
Question: You talk about crime prevention, would you elaborate more on how you would prevent crime?
Answer: Strategies are being put in place to help us implement community policing in the whole country. The police shall have to demonstrate the willingness to solve people’s problems.
This will be done by giving priority individual problems as opposed to our own. Committees will be mobilised and educated on the way forward.
The police have got to seek advice from the committees and this will allow us to solve recurring problems in the communities.
We shall essentially bridge the gap between the police and the public and this is one of the most fundamental strategies of crime prevention in any community.
Question: You bring in another interesting thing, ‘bridging the gap’. How are you going to bridge the gap between the community and the police in practical terms?
Answer: We have created a number of hotlines and other numbers that people can use to call in case of emergencies.
For example, 08311162, 08311163, etc, are emergence numbers. There are other numbers of course, like that of fire brigade, 0831120….These are numbers that the whole Rwandan society can use to call the police in case of problems.
We have also No. 3512(a hot line) that can be used in case of domestic violence. Domestic violence I am talking about includes child abuse among others.
Question: How do you foresee the community’s response to the new approach to security issues? Do you see them as being able to cooperate accordingly?
Answer: Let me take this opportunity to inform all Rwandans that the security of their country solely remains in their hands. They therefore have to cooperate as there is no other short cut.
Crimes are committed by community members and they are at the same time, the sufferers of the very crimes. A close cooperation of the police and the community will help us eliminate criminals in the society easily.
If we take cases of murder for example, the weapons used to kill can be identified by community members themselves. All the evidence leading to criminals’ arrests can be given by community members.
Take an example of words people say before they commit the crimes. They can be retold by the people themselves. This sets a very good atmosphere for crime prevention.
Question: Where and when did the idea of community policing start?
Answer: The exercise was basically started in the central region, Kigali, where the results of community policing are positive so far.
The police and the community work hand in hand to unearth criminals that used to escape the police before. People have come to know what they never knew as crime and ignorantly let it go unpunished. Some of these crimes that went unnoticed include child abuse, domestic violence, illicit beer and drug use.
Question: Most people in the community seem to be ignorant about social problems facing them, from the way you point it out. Don’t you think that that kind of ignorance is going to seriously handicap your efforts to work with the community?
Answer: Yes it is a big challenge, but we shall work it out through mobilisation and constantly educating the people. We need to streamline an informal social control to fundamental social problems.
Different awareness programs on health, development, government programs will be extended to the people. They will be given chance to have some life skills in regard to HIV/Aids prevention, trends on criminals, neighbour watch, etc.
Question: Can you generalise the practical role of the police in respect to what you have just said? How do you see the police work under the new community policing programme?
Answer: This will be a pro-active police as opposed to a reactive one. We shall be able to address mainly the causes of conflicts and not the conflicts themselves.
It will be a police force that will be able to analyse patterns of criminality that tend to vary from community to community. There are different conflicts in communities and they include water-based conflicts, land demarcations, etc.
All these issues can go to higher proportions if not addressed in time. We therefore intend to pre-empt common confusing utterances including rumours. This can be done by deploying preventive patrols, for instance.
Question: Finally, what would you advise the general community you intend to work with?
Answer: I can only tell the society that we need to live in a society where peace and harmony reign. This therefore calls for strong efforts by all partners or beneficiaries, who are the people themselves.
It is our obligation to create an environment that makes criminals and collaborators, hate their acts and join the rest of the population to build the country.