Fiona Muchbetter Dhafi is an United Nations Volunteer based in Torit, South Sudan as Law Enforcement Advisor with UNDP’s Access to Justice and Rule of Law project. Recently she helped coordinate an outreach meeting, in collaboration with UNMISS, with members of Addis Ababa Boma. The group of attendees participated in lively discussions on law enforcement in their area, and collectively elected members to serve on the Police Community Relations Committee. The Police Community Relations Committees across South Sudan are supported by the Government of Japan.
Can you tell us a little about how the Police Community Relations Committees complement the other work UNDP is doing around access to justice and rule of law, especially in Torit? What challenges are present in the area? What opportunities or successes have you seen?
Fiona: Rule of Law implies that the Government and the citizens know the law and obey it. UNDP Law Enforcement Advisors are there to advise the police on how to use community policing as a strategy for fighting crime.
The mandate of a police force is to maintain law and order by arresting offenders, detection and prevention of crime. But the world-over, there is not enough manpower to cover every area perfectly in preventing crime -- hence the need to use the concept of community policing where the police join hands with the community to fight crime. With our work in South Sudan, this takes the form of committees known as Police Community Relations Committees (PCRCs) like the one that was formed most recently in Addis Ababa Boma in Torit County.
These PCRC members are volunteering to fight crime in communities. They do not have any official form of identity and at times are harassed by other law enforcement agencies, especially during patrols at night. They lack basic things like torch lights, gumboots, raincoats and reflective vests so as to effectively patrol especially during the rainy season. Some of the PCRC members lack training to properly execute their duties.
The police station has no telephone. When a suspect is apprehended, the committee members call the personal phone numbers of police members, some of whom may be off duty. In turn, they will then phone the members on duty to go and attend.
It is unfortunate that the whole Torit State has no transport with which to attend to reports from the community. This puts the community under a lot of pressure to provide transportation for the suspect to the police station.
There is currently only one police station in Torit County. Some communities are several kilometers away from the police station and find it difficult to have their cases attended to, on time. The town would need around 4 -5 police stations to effectively deal with crime. Torit town faces major crimes of concern like theft, robbery, rape and child abduction.
Despite these challenges, we have seen some successes emerge. Crime reduction has been registered in Odikolong, Morwari ‘B’’, Mairo and Longute Bomas in Torit County. Criminals have fled to other areas. Some of the PCRC members were trained by UNDP and they lead the patrol teams in their respective areas.
How do Police Community Relations Committees (PCRCs) work?
Fiona: PCRCs are members of the community who are elected/selected by the community. Police members from the police station who are assigned to that area also form part of the PCRC. In some cases, police members who stay in the residential area of that community also can become members of the PCRC. The Chief of the area is included as a member of the PCRC, as well.
The basic idea is to mix police and community members to fight crime. The PCRC conduct patrols aimed at suppressing crime. Each PCRC develops a Patrol Plan in which some PCRC members, together with youth, are included. They are divided into teams. The teams take turns to conduct day and night patrols.
The PCRC needs to meet regularly (in Torit’s Addis Ababa community, they decided to meet twice a month) to discuss and review security issues of the community. They identify criminal/security problems that affect the community. Sometimes the problems can be social. In some cases, the PCRC can even call the community elders to assist in solving problems. The Secretary of the committee maintains a record of all meetings and all arrests made and any activities conducted.
UNDP and the PCRC carry out crime awareness campaigns to the community, to sensitize them on issues of access to justice, rule of law, gender-based violence, human rights and crime awareness. UNDP equips the PCRC members with access to justice and rule of law knowledge and the PCRC disseminates the information to the community members. This is all made possible with the support from the Government of Japan.