Policing Africa – The Life of Files Extended and Overlapping Logics


In phase III we build on our core findings: Files serve multiple purposes in the Ugan-dan police. While they are backbones of police officers activities, and while the daily routines revolve around them, their “life” is also very much “demand driven”. It is citi-zens whose complaints trigger the production of a file, and it is citizens whose actions can steer how files are processed in the police. Furthermore, files do in most cases not lead to legal procedures as all parties involved do either not trust the involved upper legal sector institutions or already shy away from the ensuing costs concerning de-tailed police investigations. Instead, the police file can become part of a conflict resolu-tion: The file is often the site on which settlements between conflicting parties are doc-umented, using the police as a guarantor of such negotiated settlements. The police are thus part of the production of order in a practical sense, with routines accepted by par-ties involved, including formal and informal practices and “practical norms”. While we see here clearly how “dealings” with the police affect their routines, we see another “life of files” in the production of a statistical representation of police work based on the files. Files are translated into new files, and book entries, and finally summaries, namely monthly and annual crime incidents statistics, which become the basis of fur-ther bureaucratic productions, and, supposedly, of policy planning.

Concerning logics of interaction the most important insight is that we see overlapping logics at work here. “Dealings” with the police include the formal-legal logic of police procedures, not only because police officers are forced to employ it. Also, citizens ask for documentation and procedures in pursuing their own interest. At the same time, a “logic of customs” is at work in these interactions. Gender, age, social status and prac-tices that are not part of the legal-professional code are not only played out by citizens but are also part of the practices of the police. Furthermore, middlemen who turn into informal lawyers (kayungirizi), often mediate between the world of police work and inexperienced civilians who need to muddle through. Also, we see effects of politiciza-tion in these interactions. Citizens refer to the “people’s army” ideology of the ruling party in order to morally engage the police, and they denounce the police as being in-terested only in “regime security”, especially with reference to the “Field Force Unit”, a section which is known for harsh repressive measures. And finally, as probably any-where else in the world, citizens as well as police officers use the entire register of hu-man expression to “bend” probable outcomes: Charm, wit, aggression, social capital.


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