The order by the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kaihura followed a resolution by the Joint Operation Command to minimize the use of tear gas and excessive force in arrests.
Makerere University students run after police open tear gas during a riot in 2011
The Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura has ordered the force to minimize the use of tear gas and pepper spray in public order management operations.
The order followed a resolution reached by the Joint Operation Command, in which heads of all national security agencies sit. Security chiefs are said to be concerned about the criticism police is facing on use of tear gas and excessive force in management of public order.
The deputy police spokesperson, Polly Namaye confirmed the development, saying the police is trying to be pro-active.
â€œThe police policy is to ensure as little engagement with the public in terms of crowd control. We will only use means such as tear gas where absolutely necessary,â€ Namaye says.
Police will therefore star by the use of shield men to break illegal meetings. If this fails, officers will then use water canons, followed by rubber bullets. It is after all these have failed that police will introduce tear gas and pepper spray.
Other resolutions which were reached by Joint Operations Command include using only one officer to arrest a suspect, with the second coming in if the suspect becomes violent.
Sources say the police also plans to procure and popularize the use of handcuffs for every police personnel, to reduce the use of unnecessary force in implementing arrests.
A human rights organization, the Foundation for Human Rights Initiative has welcomed the move by police ahead of the General Elections.
Foundation for Human Rights Initiative Executive Director, Livingstone Ssewanyana says they expected that from a police that is pro-people.
â€œA police force that is pro-people should not be using tear gas every time there is a simple fracas. Tear gas is supposed to be used on a rare occasion but we have seen police using it indiscriminately. I hope that this will pave way for more pro people changes in the police,â€ said Ssewanyana.
A reliable source in the police Directorate of Logistics has however informed Uganda Radio Network (URN) that police tear gas and pepper spray stock expired in 2013 and no other consignment has been procured since. The decision, according to the source, could also be informed by the fact that the force wants to avoid using expired stock.
The tear gas which is still in stock was reportedly procured in 2011 during the walk to work demonstration and has continued to be used.