Since the inception of Rwanda National Police (RNP) in 2000, the force’s strategic approach to improving safety and security has been through community policing, one of the RNP key priorities for effective and people oriented policing.
Community policing, in essence, is a collaboration between the police and the community that identifies and solves community problems. With the police no longer the sole guardians of law and order, all members of the community become activepartners in the effort to enhance the orderly and secure neighborhoods.
According to the RNP spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) Celestin Twahirwa, community policing has played a central role in anti-crime awareness, crime prevention and reduction strategies.
“We have steadily moved from the traditional policing to people focused and a digital era where a paradigm shift to information technology has actually made community policing a stronger and effective tool in improving security and the well-being of the people,” said ACP Twahirwa.
“The expanded outlook on crime prevention and reduction, the new emphasis on making community members active participants in the process of problem solving, and the patrol officers’ pivotal role in community policing require profound changes within the police approach and organization and that is where RNP is heading.”
According to the spokesperson, the development of social media, the establishment of the police Call Centre, cyber crime investigation centre, the integrated case file management system and many other IT tools, have “eased timely communication and information exchange between the police at all levels, and the people down in their communities and families.”
“This has made access to information simpler and the people’s access to police services and quick intervention or response made easy,” he said.
The RNP Call Centre currently runs about ten toll-free lines; 110 for maritime, 111 (fire and rescue brigade), 112 (emergency), 113 (traffic offences), 116 (child-help-line), 3512 (GBV), 3029 (Isange One Stop Centre), 997 (Anti-corruption) and 3511 (complaint against police officer).
“We are on social media – Twitter and Facebook – where we get complaints and compliments and feedback; the public can as well lodge their complaints online via the RNP web-page; we have a particular medium of communication with the community policing committees 24/7; all these e-policing channels have reshaped community policing, brought the police closer to the people where they are connected to the police stations and district police units,” ACP Twahirwa noted.
RNP has established over 200 police stations across the country and all adopted e-policing among its crime, detection, prevention and response programmes.
“Under e-policing, we have also upgraded the registration for driver’s license tests online through Irembo, controlling the use and functioning of speed governors, easy tracking of vehicles wanted for particular offences and inspection of the status of vehicles at Motor Vehicle Inspection Centre as well as use of Interpol tool I-24/7.”
"The neighborhood watch, civilian patrols backed by the police, helps community members mobilize support and resources to solve problems and enhance their quality of life. Community members voice their concerns, contribute advice, and take action to address these concerns. Creating a constructive partnership will require the energy, creativity and understanding.”
There are over 170, 000 members of community policing committees, over 1500 anti-crime clubs and about 100, 000 members of Rwanda Youth Volunteers in Community Policing (RYVCP), across the country and ACP Twahirwa said all these social network groups facilitate reassurance and public involvement in policing.
Community policing is a fully-fledged department under RNP with structures down to the sector level and it runs the day-to-day awareness programmes, among other things.
With the office of the RNP spokesperson extended to the regional level and in some departments like traffic, ACP Twahirwa said, the mode of communication especially with the media fraternity, has been eased and this has also turned out to supplement the community policing initiatives where the media has become a source of information on policing services.
“Reinvigorating community policing essential if we are to deter crime and create more secure neighborhoods. Trust is the value that underlies and links the components of community partnership and problem solving-people oriented policing. A foundation of trust will allow police to form close relationships with the community that will produce tangible achievements . Without trust between police and citizens, effective policing is almost impossible.”