Uganda police partners with NGO to pilot digital storage of case files

Uganda police partners with NGO to pilot digital storage of case files
IJM officials with police officers at the registry where most files were found kept in sacks. Courtesy Photo

Fort Portal, Uganda | URN | The police in the Rwenzori West region has partnered with International Justice Mission (IJM) to pilot the digital storage of case files.

For several years, police have been trying to migrate from the tiresome and challenging system of storing hard copy files of cases to the digital system which is said to be more convenient and effective.

The old system has challenges that include low capacity for case tracking, lack of searchable crime databases, lack of detection of unauthorized evidence tampering and retrospective reporting that can be used for decision making and profiling criminals.

On Wednesday 10, March 2021, IJM officials met with Rwenzori West police officials at the regional police headquarters in Boma, Fort Portal where they agreed that the piloting begins in April 2021.

James Foster, the IJM country director said they will provide the technology to police free of charge and even train police officers on how to use it. He said that at the same time, they will be providing safe containers where the files can be stored without being destroyed by insects and rain.

The Rwenzori West regional police spokesperson Vincent Twesige said that the manual storage of files has been a challenge to them for a long time. He said some complainants give up on their cases and criticize police because their files get mixed up and delay the justice system while others disappear completely.

He was optimistic that once this system is in place, the challenges will greatly reduce since it will be accessible to most of the relevant departments including courts.

Foster said at the same time they will be piloting the audio-video technology of capturing statements from victims of cases reported to the police. He explained that this technology is so important especially for Gender-based Violence-GBV victims who find it traumatizing to keep narrating what they went through every time their statements are needed at different levels.

Foster said that this particular system is unique as most recording systems used in law enforcement require permanent installation. He said it is mobile and produces recordings that embed metadata, rendering them tamper-proof, and simultaneously records on multiple CDs, eliminating the need to burn copies for evidence, case file, and prosecutor.

This technology of digital storage of case files is also going to be piloted at the CID headquarters in Kibuli, Kampala and Gulu.

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International Justice Mission is a global organization that aims at promoting justice and combat trafficking and slavery, violence against women and children, and police abuse of power. Established in 1997, IJM is currently operating in 20 countries around the globe.

In 2013, some officers were trained in computer literacy by the US Embassy in Uganda to shift to the digital system and a few computers were donated to the police force. In 2017, police said they were ready to actualize its Digital Crime Record Management System.

However when contacted, the Criminal Investigations Directorate-CID spokesperson Charles Twine could not readily give an update on the status of the system.