Making Community Policing A Priority In The Gambia

Reducing crime, protecting communities, and ensuring justice for all

December 14, 2022
Photo: UNDP The Gambia, 2022

Gambian police, like the society within which they operate, are experiencing slow but fundamental change. With large scale reforms taking place in The Gambia, including the Security Sector Reform process, policing is slowly but steadily shifting from suppression to a people-centered service. Following the successful piloting of Community Policing in 3 districts, namely, Kerewan in the North Bank Region, Bakadjie in the Upper River Region, and Kunkujang in the West Coast Region, UNDP and UNICEF supported the phase-approach rollout of community policing in four regions within 7 districts in the Central River Region (Janjanbureh), North Bank Region (Barra), & Upper River Region (Basse), Lower River Region (Mansakonko and Kerewan) in line with the government’s decentralised policy.

The successes registered in the 3 districts precipitated a foundation of modern proactive policing, premised onlocal security structures that have been set up in a participatory manner. Nowhere is this more evident than at Garawol, a small town in eastern Gambia close to the border with Senegal. Located in Kantora District in the Upper River Division, some 177 mi or ( 284 km ) East of Banjul , the country's capital city, Garawol has local security structures set up, comprising community members from all ages, sexes, and demographics, including Persons with Disabilities and children. Since the installation of community policing, crime rates have decrease drastically in border town.

Photo: UNDP The Gambia, 2022

Approximately 300 police officers, 30% of whom are female officers, have been capacitated with knowledge and are effectively and efficiently addressing security using a child and gender-responsive policing approach. In addition, the capacities of 161 community members, 79 female and 82 male were upscaled to be advocates for community policing at community levels. 200 Community Policing Volunteers were also selected and trained in all the 5 districts. These community volunteers, will provide direct support to trained specialist policing teams to help them achieve the aim of reducing crime and disorder.

“Specifically, people understand now that policing is the business of all,”

said the Chief Superintendent of the GPF Community Policing Unit, Lamin Jaiteh, in reference to the Gambia Police Force’s famous catchphrase.

The shift in practice specifically from conventional crime control to police modernisation, has led to more visible policing through patrols. This shift is particularly important from a gender perspective, according to Corporal Mai Jeffang, a trained Community Police specialist,

“The culture of silence is breaking in the rural communities, due to numerous sensitisation campaigns and because of proactive policing. People no longer regard police officers as strangers in their midst. Police officers patrolling the streets actively engage with the communties to mitigate criminalities, including SGBV offences, low-level crimes and violations, before there is a call for their service. This helps in preventing more serious crimes in the communities from occurring,“

Corporal Jeffang added.

“Community Policing cannot work without members of the community being part of the initiative for sustainable peace and development of their communities and the country as a whole,“

emphasized CPS Lamin Jaiteh.

As a result, police officers are no longer focusing their practice on responding to specific requests and/or calls for service from individuals or groups only. Instead proactive policing specific to every district helps in deterring crime and addressing the citizens’ fear of crime before it occurs. This requires a lot of resources to implement full scale,”

he intimated.

About 3 months ago, UNDP supported the police with 150 medal bicycles to enhance interactive patrols intended for short range survelliance. This will assist police officers struggling to strike the balance between the police staff on the ground and the community population. With no existing structures in place to determine the ratio of police staff to the population in each of the communities, to reduce crime and fear of crime, police officers are using good communication with the communities they serve to increase levels of trust between citizens and officers in these areas. Maintaining a visible and proactive police presence in neighborhoods will deter crime and criminal behavior, as well as reduce the public's fear of crime. Both goals are equally important and contribute to enhancing trust between citizens and police. By proactive policing, officers are helping communities to believe the idea that crime will not be tolerated.

“Instead of sitting in their offices, and waiting for crime to occur, the police officers are now coming to the people to assuage their fears and avert crimes before they occur. This has brought us a sense of peace and safety in our community,” said Haddy Jallow, a resident of Niumi, one of the beneficiary communities.

To further the community policing initiative, UNDP facilitated the development and piloting of a data collection mobile App for four of the most reported crimes incorporated in the existing case management system. Due to the successful implementation of the piloted app, UNDP is supporting the upgrading of the mobile App to incorporate all other reported crimes for real-time reporting. Coordination on data collection between the GPF, Office of the President, SSR stakeholders and other relevant parties for evidence-based decision-making to enhance police response in crime management is key. Moreover, a GIS mapping of all Police posts, stations, district, and regional offices was completed to aid in critical decision making for staff deployment. 

Photo: UNDP The Gambia, 2022

Finally, in partnership with the Gambia Police Force, GIZ, DCAF, UNODC and UNICEF, a unified "Model Police Station" to guide development partners' infrastructure work has been developed. After an assessment was conducted in all the police stations, including five (5) identified police stations for the project, the project board agreed to build a new model station rather than the renovation of 5 police stations considering the dilapidated state of the police stations. The bidding process for the construction of a police station is ongoing including an independent quality assurance consultant who will conduct an engineering oversight of the new model station to ensure all specifications are met.

The construction is intended to start within the second week of November to be completed in August 2022. The Police identified four regions Centre River Region (Janjanbureh), North Bank Region (Barra), Upper River Region (Basse), Lower River Region (Mansakonko, and Kerewan) where the project is rolling out community policing. The CP training manual, Community Policing Volunteer (CPV) guideline finalized and endorsed by the Inspector General of Police (IGP) and drafted the communication strategy. District Police Plan to be finalized by mid-November.

Clearly, despite the support to enhance a people centered policing, there is need for more resource to expand community policing philosophy in the entire country across the boarder and grassroots in mitigating and combating any form of violence and crime in the The Gambia.