Uganda Police Force (UPF)

The Uganda Police Force is another Government body created by the Constitution of Uganda. The head of Uganda Police is the Inspector General of Police who is assisted by the Deputy Inspector General of Police.

Police officers must be of good character and nationalistic, patriotic, professional, disciplined, competent and productive when carrying out their duties. The Police has as its main duties to keep law and order, as well as protect life and property.

You must report every crime to the Police. You must also help the Police in carrying out its investigation.

Powers of Uganda Police Force to Carry Out Arrests

In exercising its powers to maintain law and order, the Police often carry out arrests and detention of suspects. Several rules govern how the Police should arrest and detain suspects and which are also rights of an arrested or detained person. These are:

  • A person who has been arrested, detained or restricted must be kept in a place authorized by law – this means at a police station or at a place declared by the Government as one for keeping arrested persons;
  • A person arrested, restricted or detained must be informed immediately in a language that he or she understands, of the reasons for the arrest, restriction, or detention and of his or her right to a lawyer of his or her choice;
  • A person who has been arrested or detained shall, if not earlier released, be brought to court as soon as possible but in any case not later than 48 hours from the time of his or her arrest, and;
  • Where a person is detained or restricted:-
  • the next of kin of that person shall, at the request of that person, be informed as soon as practicable of the restriction and detention;
  • the next of kin, lawyer and personal doctor of that person shall be allowed reasonable access to that person; and
  • that person shall be allowed access to medical treatment including, access to private medical treatment at the request and cost of that person.

The above mentioned responsibilities and duties are imposed on the Police in order to protect an arrested or detained person’s right to liberty.

Arrest With and Without a Warrant

The general rule is that a Police Officer should not carry out an arrest without first obtaining an arrest warrant from a court. However, there are instances when an officer can arrest a person without an arrest warrant. These are:

  • When a police officer reasonably suspects that a person has committed an offense which on conviction is punishable by a term of imprisonment for one year or more, or a fine exceeding four thousand Uganda Shillings or an offense under Chapter XVI of the Penal Code Act which the law allows one to be arrested without a warrant (for example the offense of being idle and disorderly);
  • Where a person commits a breach of the peace in the presence of the police officer;
  • When a person prevents a Police Officer from executing his or her duties;
  • When a person escapes or attempts to escape from lawful custody;
  • Where the person is reasonably suspected to be a deserter from the Uganda People’s Defence Forces;
  • When a Police Officer suspects that he or she has or is about to commit an offense which on conviction is punishable for a term of three or more years;
  • Where a person who is reasonably suspected to have committed an act in any place out of Uganda which if the said act is committed in Uganda would be an offense, and which under any law that person is liable to be arrested in Uganda;
  • When a person has in his or her possession an implement or tool of house breaking;
  • Where it is reasonably suspected that a warrant of arrest has been issued in respect of a particular person; and
  • When anything found in the possession of a person is reasonably suspected to have been stolen, or that a person has committed an offense in respect to that thing.

How an Arrest is Conducted

Unless there is submission to the arrest by word or action, a Police Officer arrests by touching or confining the body of the person being arrested. If a person being arrested attempts to resist the arrest, the police officer or person making the arrest is permitted to use all reasonable means necessary to effect the arrest. However, this is not an excuse of using excessive or unreasonable force.

Meaning of Reasonable Force

Generally, reasonable force means necessary force but not more. For force to be reasonable, it must not be more than what is needed to carry out an arrest. For example, if the suspect is fighting the Police, the Police may use force to stop or subdue or calm the suspect but must not beat the suspect.

Powers to Search

The Constitution guarantees the right to privacy in several ways. It provides that no person shall be unlawfully searched and neither should his home or other property. It further states that a person’s premises shall not be liable for unlawful entry by others. Furthermore, it directs that no person shall be subjected to interference with the privacy of that person’s home, communication or other property.

There are however instances when a person or his home may be searched. The general rule is that a person’s home or property is not supposed to be searched except where a court order permits. This is usually issued after a Police Officer has reason to believe that there is material evidence in a person’s home which supports the commission of an offense.

It should also be noted that these searches should be made between sunrise and sunset of any day unless the court which issued the warrant decides otherwise.

A Police Officer has the authority to search any person who has been arrested and may take possession of anything found on that person which might reasonably be used as evidence in any criminal case. However, a woman can only be searched by a fellow woman with strict regard to decency.

Complaints Against the Police

Whereas a Police Officer has the authority to carry out his or her duties, the powers of a Police Officer are not absolute and are subject to the law. As such, where a person feels that the police is acting in a way contrary to the law, there are two options that they can undertake namely, the legal option or the administrative options.

The Administrative Options

Every Police Officer has a particular rank. A lower rank is supervised by a higher rank. As such, a Police Officer who behaves in an illegal or unprofessional manner can be reported and is answerable to a higher-ranked Officer. For example, in the event that a Sergeant asks for a bribe in order to release a suspect on police bond, the matter should be reported to the Officer-in- Charge Criminal Investigation Division (OC CID), or Officer-in-Charge of the Station, or District Police Commander (DPC), or the Regional Police Commander (RPC).

Besides, the Uganda Police Professional Standards Unit deals with misconduct or neglect/non-performance of duty among the members of the police. It has powers to take disciplinary measures against Police Officers. You can make a complaint to the Uganda Police Professional Standard Unit against a Police Officer for violation of human rights, unprofessional conduct, report bribery, corruption, oppression or intimidation by an officer, neglect or non- performance of duties.

You may make a complaint by filling Police Form 105 which is available on-line at

You can contact Uganda Police Professional Standards Unit by calling telephone numbers 0800300119, calls to this number are free or in person at: Uganda Police Professional Standards Unit Plot 1303 Serumaga Road, Bukoto, Kampala, Tel No. 0800199199, 0800199299, 0800200019 e-mail: psuhqrtrs@

You can also contact the Inspector General of Police and the Deputy Inspector General of Police at:

Uganda Police Force Headquarters Katalima Road, Naguru,Telephone Number: 041423381/ 414259613/414255630

The Legal Optio

The law requires the Police to use reasonable force when carrying out an arrest. It also requires the Police to bring a person before the court of law within 48 hours of arrest or grant that person bond, which is free.

If a Police Officer acts in excess of his power, he or she can be challenged in courts of law. So in the event that a person is held at police for more than 48 hours without being released or taken to court, that person’s relatives or lawyer can apply to a court for an order to release the suspect.

Source: “A Citizen’s Handbook on Law and Administration of Justice in Uganda, Fourth Edition“