Police Officer Filmed Pocketing Suspects’ Phones Cleared for Keeping them Safely

A police officer who has been trending on social media after being filmed pocketing protesters’ mobile phones has defended himself before his senior bosses at the Kampala Central Police Station. 

Corporal Peter Makai Odu was last week captured on video pocketing three mobile phones as police rounded up university students who staged a peaceful demonstration in support of the European Union Parliament’s decision to halt the construction of the East African Crude Oil Pipeline -EACOP.

Odu has reportedly told the commanders that he collected and declared the mobile phones to his immediate supervisor. “I collected these phones because they had fallen down and I could not leave them on the ground.” Odu is quoted to have said. “The owners had run away and others had been arrested. I didn’t steal them and I did not go with them to my home. I declared them to my commander and left them in the office.”

Days after police protected students who demonstrated against the EU’s resolution to halt EACOP construction, other students demonstrated expressing support for the reasons that had been given to suspend the project.

The students said all the reasons the EU gave such as destroyed homes to facilitate the construction of access roads or the processing plant, the forcefully requisitioned land, and inadequate compensation were nothing else but truth.

But the police unleashed its Field Force Unit -FFU backed up by general duty officers donned in khaki, and they brutally responded to the students’ protest with teargas and batons. In that process, students’ mobile phones fell down as they scampered for safety while others lost theirs as they were being bundled on police patrol Pick-Ups trucks.

At the end of the day, nine from Kyambogo, Gulu, and Makerere universities were arrested. These are Java Ntabazi, 25, Vicent Lubega, 21, Alphose Nkurunziza, 23, Gerald Wenani, 24, David Musiri, 34, Benjamin Akiso, 22, Akisi Gonga, 23, Alex Waswa Lyazi, 25, a tourist guide, and Marktom Kajubi, 23. 

Police preferred charges of being a common nuisance against them but they denied the offenses. They have since been released on court bail. Some of the journalists and part of the protesters captured the scenes on videos including the one which showed Cpl Odu pocketing the protesters’ mobile phones. After the video reached CPS commanders, Cpl Odu was summoned to defend himself.

Luke Owoyesigyire, the deputy Kampala metropolitan police spokesperson, confirmed that indeed Odu defend himself and also that the mobile phones are being kept in the offices waiting for their owners to collect them.

Owoyesigyire said Odu’s commander also confirmed that he had declared the three mobile phones to him. Police said another mobile phone was picked up by a sergeant and it was also declared to the operations commander.

“We have the phones and they will be handed over to the owners once they come for them. They were not stolen but the officer collected them and also informed his supervisor. He had three phones but another officer also picked one,” Owoyesigyire said.

This is not the first time police officers have been filmed pocketing suspects’ valuables including money during operations. Barely two months ago, Professional Standards Unit -PSU charge six Kawempe police officers captured by Closed Circuit Television -CCTV cameras extorting money from drivers at an impromptu roadblock.

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