Community policing and improved police capacity increases community trust and engagement with the police in Puntland

Captain Mohamud Mohamed Abdirahman

In 2018 Captain Mohamud Mohamed Abdirahman was called up to lead the Nugaal Community Police Programme. Like many of his colleagues, this was his first experience of using a community policing approach.  The programme is being implemented across Puntland by the Office of Puntland Human Rights Defenders (OPHRD), to address community distrust in local police, community insecurity and to prevent human rights violations at police stations.

OPHRD has trained more than 500 community members to work alongside the police in seventeen districts in Puntland. To build relationships between the community and the police, community police committees have been formed. To support the process and coordinate operations, officers and community members have completed training on community policing, human rights and community-police collaboration.

Captain Mohamud believes that community confidence and trust in the police has improved since the programme began and as a result the station has seen an increase in the numbers of cases being reported: For the year 2019 we received 120 cases which included gender based violence, land, family and community based disputes. The number of cases received in 2019 increased by 20%.  This increase was brought about by the good relationship we are having with the community around us. Most of the community police participants live within the community hence this makes it easier for the citizens to report cases even if it is to people who are unfamiliar.’

A woman from Nugaal explains: “Previously I was always afraid of the police and never liked to have any contacts with them, but don’t judge people before you know them, I once reported an arson case to the police, they came to assess the damage, take photos and interview witnesses and a few days later, the perpetrators were arrested and currently the case is ongoing…”

These has been an increase in the reports of rape and other forms of gender-based violence reported. The police stations have set up gender desks staffed by female police officers to better handle gender related issues and human rights training has improved the way cases are processed. As Shamso Abdi Bille, a police officer who handles gender related cases, explains: “Previously most cases were taken to traditional elders because the public had no confidence with the police, but currently the scenarios have changed a lot with people having greater faith in the police and the courts systems of the country. They feel justice will be served and the offenders will get punished.” A respondent in Bossaso noted: ‘the community police from what I’ve seen are mostly women, who are having a positive impact on the city. Because they are women, who are in the community, they are an authority that other women can feel comfortable going to and stating their problems.

Captain Mohamud is optimistic about the future: ‘we hope to continue to teach these same techniques that we have learn to other police officers who were not enrolled in the program and continue to build on this success.”

Shamis Abdi Bille, a member of community police in Garowe, Puntland

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