AS the Rwanda National Police force celebrated its 10th Anniversary on June 16, there was every indication that they had succeeded to bridge the gap between them and the general public.
The main role of the police is to maintain law and order. A law abiding society or community reaps the fruits of peace and development.
Besides maintenance of law and order, the police force has other sections such as the traffic section, which deals with road safety, and another which deals with child welfare. Other sections of equal importance are the fire-fighting section and the K-9 dog unit whose role is to track criminals, check for drugs and explosives.
The Gender-Based Violence (GBV) desk in the force handles gender issues and has made a lot of progress in preventing and bringing to justice offenders.
All these services rendered by the Police are crucial to the general public who can easily reach the police by calling the following toll free numbers: Emergency desk 112 and 3155, traffic accidents desk, call 113, and for the Gender Based Violence desk, call 3512. What should not be overemphasized here is the need for the police to continuously educate the citizens on the benefits they stand to gain from cooperating with the police.
Once the police have the hearts and minds of the public on their side, then the police’s battle is won! To begin with, those who delight in being on the wrong side of the law will have no sanctuary since they are part of the community.
Eventually, more and more potential law breakers such as drug dealers, robbers and even petty thieves might have no option but to play safe by turning to legitimate livelihoods.
The force therefore should endeavor to make it clear that whatever they do is primarily in the interest of the public. The force must execute its duty professionally and competently so as to earn people’s trust. They should adopt zero tolerance to corruption and related vices.
Looking back at the police activities that have characterized the 10th Anniversary celebrations, it is quite clear that the institution is part and parcel of the general Rwandan public.
The force has never been so conspicuous; you can see them building terraces upcountry to arrest soil erosion, constructing or roofing vulnerable people’s houses, helping school children to cross roads during rush hour and assisting flood victims.
During the football match that pitted APR FC against DRC’s Mazembe FC, the scuffle that ensued would have turned ugly had it not been the prompt and professional intervention of the Police.
The way the Police conducted themselves during this mishap won them respect and admiration from us Rwandans as well as visitors who were present.
I knew a police force in this region that were so loathed by the public that even pre-school children engrossed in play instinctively took to their heels at the Police’s sight! They were also notorious for planting drugs on people and then turning around to demand bribes or else... Who on Earth would trust such a police force?
I am not suggesting that our police forces are angels; actually at one time they were massively sacked for various crimes including corruption.
In my view the way recruitment was done in the past contributed to poor service delivery and crime in the force. Apparently police authorities addressed the issue according to what we see today.
New recruits to the Police force should be screened based on their conduct, education and a genuine willingness to serve the people. This will help the country to build a professional and disciplined police institution.
That said, our police force is small compared to the population they serve; there is a need to create interest in our youths male and female to join the force.
Like any other police force elsewhere, Rwanda National police is crucial to this country. Part of what they do requires courage, determination and self sacrifice and not everyone can do it.
The government should ensure that the National police force is well looked after in terms of remuneration and terms and conditions of service just like other professional workers. This will both boost morale within the force and attract more youth to join it.
Members of our police force are involved in peace keeping missions beyond our borders – in Sierra Leone, Chad, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Haiti. This testifies to the trust Africa and the World have in the institution too. However, much more remains to be done.
Védaste Kambanda is an employee at the Rwanda National Television