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Police struggling to implement physical distancing during arrests

Some of the students of Muteesa 1 Royal University on a police pickup after the strike.

Kampala, Uganda |  THE INDEPENDENT | Police are struggling to implement physical distancing guidelines during the arrest of persons accused of violating the lock down rules.

The Health Ministry recommends a distance of 4 and half meters between individuals as part of the Covid19 prevention measures.

However, Uganda Police Force is failing the physical distancing guidelines owing to logistical challenges and massive arrests of suspects.

Last week, Police officers conducting an operation in Kyebando, Kisalosalo zone in Kampala bundled up to 17 people found operating nonfood businesses on a patrol van. None of the suspects nor police officer had protective wear like masks, which exposed them to Covid19 infection. This has been same practice in different parts of the country.

Early this week, the Inspector General of Police, Martin Okoth Ochola issued directives to all Police officers following the confirmation of a COVID 19 case at Masindi Police Station on Friday 1st May 2020.

According to Ochola, all police officers must wear face masks at all times while on duty without excuse, saying failure to do so shall lead to arrest and prosecution.

“No officer shall be found carrying a passenger, a suspect or a colleague on a motorcycle while on or off duty. Over loading police vehicles too is prohibited,” Ochola said.

Despite the guidelines, URN has seen up three Police officers sharing a single motorbike even after the IGP’s directive. Police officers are also seen packed on a patrol vehicle together with Local Defense Units (LDU).              Police Spokesperson Fred Enanga, told journalists that they had received logistic supplies including hand washing facilities and facial masks.

He said there is a lot of improvement in the manner of arrests, adding that suspects are made to wash their hands before they are arrested and transported.

Enanga said overloading of suspects in one vehicle including policemen could be an error and would stop. He said most of the arrests are disruptive policing not with the intention of taking the suspects to court.

Dr. Ekwaro Obuku says any congestion including in cells isn’t good and undermines the fight against COVID-19. He says alternative justice means and community policing should be explored.

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