Kabul, October 2016. Spread out across Kabul, billboards display the Afghan police pledge of service to Afghan society, safeguarding life and the property of citizens as well as protecting their freedom and rights. A EUPOL-backed campaign aims at making the police code of conduct common knowledge.
The code of conduct of the Afghan National Police (ANP) – a guide on behaviour in conducting police work – was approved in 2011. A survey was conducted in May by the Afghan Ministry of Interior Affairs (MoI) to gauge the public’s knowledge and perception of it. The survey revealed limited awareness of the code of conduct – ANP officers have themselves admitted to a lack of understanding of its principles. The survey findings prompted a EUPOL-funded media campaign project to address the deficit. “Only 25% of the public know about the police code of conduct,” revealed project leader and EUPOL Police Adviser John Mountain.
The five-month awareness campaign was launched in July and also employs TV, radio and posters to disseminate its message.
Community policing in focus
Community policing lies at the heart of the campaign, according to the MoI Inspector General Major General Abdul Zia Kohistan: “Our objective is to raise police and public awareness of the responsibilities of the police which center around service to the public, through protecting people and maintaining security.”
The Inspector General’s office has printed 10,000 booklets of the code of conduct to be distributed to every police department in Kabul.
The campaign essentially informs the public that there are rules that the police must comply with. “It is important for people to understand their rights. The police should also understand what the rights of the people are,” explained the Head of the Planning and Control Department at the MoI, Colonel Mohammad Nawroz Samandari, who oversees the MoI review of public complaints against the police.
The MoI hopes the campaign will help prevent police offences. The code of conduct also extends to measures on filing complaints against police officers in case of misbehaviour.The Inspector General underlines however that the campaign is not primarily focused on punitive measures for breaches of the code of conduct. “Our overriding ambition concerns gaining public trust. The campaign is part of the MoI’s strategic ten-year plan to reduce crime through increased cooperation between the public and the police.”
Major General Zia Kohistani describes the campaign as a much-needed step that could bring positive change to police work. “The public will be aware of their rights to complain when the police fail to comply with the code of conduct and transparency and integrity within the police will improve,” he said.