Trust and human rights take centre stage as South Sudanese police are trained by UN counterparts
“We need each other, just like a river and the fish depend on each other,” says Brigadier Kon Mel Ayok, Deputy Police Commissioner in Wau, about the relationship between the law enforcement agency and the public it serves.
And to thrive, cooperation between citizens and the police depends on mutual trust.
“Some people have a negative attitude towards us because some of our officers have used excessive physical force when dealing with civilians,” conceded Sergeant Agonyon Morol, one of 44 national police officers attending a three-day workshop offered by their United Nations counterparts.
“We are learning better ways to approach and interact with the public. We are here to serve, not harm, communities, and as of today I will be carrying out my duties in a more professional manner,” he added.
Private Abany Panycilieu, one of twenty female officers participating in the training, says the sessions on community policing and human rights, particularly of children and other vulnerable groups, have served as eye-openers for herself and her peers.
“We are gaining knowledge on how to engage with the public, to convene meetings with residents and get citizens involved in solving crime-related problems they experience in their neighbourhoods. That’s how we can build trust and improve cooperation,” she said, adding that increased visibility achieved by more frequent patrols also helps.
In line with their mandate, police officers serving with the United Nations Mission in South Sudan are engaged in systematically building the capacity of their colleagues in the host country, not least by conducting numerous trainings covering different aspects of policing.
The forum on community policing in Wau town focused on how to create better relations between the police and the civilians they serve, not least by law enforcement agents treating everyone, including both victims of crimes and detainees, with dignity and respect at all times.