Commissioner of Police JOSEPHINE KAKOOZA is the head of music, dance and drama department in the force, which she has served since joining as a 14-year-old in 1969.
The now 64-year-old is best known for her role in the police band. She has performed before eight different Ugandan presidents and as she prepares for retirement, she shares her life journey with Zurah Nakabugo.
You have to give it to Kakooza when it comes to dedication. She has risen from the lowest rank of probation constable to now a commissioner; she has seen it all in the force and is now grooming others to follow in her footsteps.
As police MDD head, she oversees and supervises more than 180 officers. She is an outstanding example of a woman determined to succeed in a male-dominated field and those close to her nicknamed her Mama Police.
Born in Masaka to Joseph Kakooza, a former Buganda county chief, and Theodora Namutebi, a young Kakooza actually dreamt to become a nurse when she grows up.
“I was a young girl in the sixties and I admired British policewomen who were managing the police band back then,” she says.
”I loved the way they sang and held instruments. I also admired police women because they were smartly-dressed all the time and performed on so many occasions.”
Kakooza recalls that it was normal back in the day to recruit young people into police because they could pick the music very fast compared to adults.
“I was at Trinity College Nabbingo, but I dropped out of school in 1968 and my daddy told me to join a nursing school though I didn’t like the course,” she says.
She was enrolled at Butabika hospital nursing school but dropped out almost immediately.
“I started with treating dead bodies which scared me a lot and ran away from there. I was also tired of seeing people dying all the time,” she says.
After running away from Butabika, a relative connected her to then Inspector General of Police (IGP) Erinayo Oryema with the intention of drafting her into the police force. Oryema surprisingly didn’t chase her away in spite of her young age and instead enrolled her to go through intensive music training.
“IGP Oryema was a good man, very professional and knew the work of police. He respected police officers in all departments. But as a young girl, I didn’t follow him so much since my focus was to shine in the police band,” she says.
“By the way, we had British trainers who were so professional and caring about constables who had joined the department to learn and feel the music,” she says. “We were very few, about 80 people.”
After training at Kibuli police training school for two years, she was deployed in the police band under the police music department. Since then, Kakooza has never looked back and being part of the police band department has made her a role model.
“It has made me grow in both age and mind. I now feel it is part of me. I love my job and I knew that I could do better work than men. That challenged me to work harder. I became firm in everything I did and when we used to go for field work and men sleep on verandas, I would also sleep there.”
Recalling her formative days in the force, Kakooza says becoming a policewoman meant one had to endure a bit of discrimination.
“Whereas we were all trained in police work, women were not trained in weapons until 1973. Before, women were neglected in weaponry training, thinking that we were weak and can’t do it. But many women were also not confident in their work and left most of martial training for men,” she says.
“However, I had a different thought. My mind was that if a man can do it, why not me? And with that belief, I managed to train and defeated the men. I emerged the best in shooting the target during weaponry training in 1973.”
It goes without saying that as a young lady in a field full of men, Kakooza attracted the attention of her male colleagues. “Like any other woman, I faced many challenges with men attempting to have an affair with me. But I was firm and I used to challenge and oppose any man. I’m tough, by the way,” she says.
In the years that followed, Kakooza established herself in the band, often playing the flute or leading the march.
She performed before different heads of state such as Idi Amin, Milton Obote and, of course, President Museveni. She has managed to steer clear of any controversy by focusing on music as well as grooming others.
“She is an exemplary figure whom all of us respect,” says Patrick Onyango, the deputy police spokesperson. “We look out for her when we need parental advice because she is an honest person.”
In her course of work, Kakooza has also been under several IGPS but she wouldn’t want to rate them. “It’s not easy to say who was better. They all had different skills on police work. Although some of them have made a lot of faults than others, but they are human beings,” she says.
Besides music, Kakooza is a proud mother of six children although two of them have since passed on. I educated my children until they completed their studies and now I have grandchildren. I’m glad one of my sons has also joined police,” she says.
On how she juggles police work and family time, she doesn’t find any challenges. “I am currently a single mother since my marriage was not successful due to so many ups and downs.”
Kakooza’s longevity in police has also yielded several awards that she cherishes a lot.
“I have won several medals in my career. There is one for Independence, long service and good conduct, and distinguished service in the police. I’m grateful to God for the recognitions because there are many police officers who look up to me for inspiration. You know, at the time I joined the force, women were not confident but I was different and used to do all things men could do. It gives me joy when I see many women coming up through the ranks.”
Whereas Kakooza has had only one formal job throughout her life, she has various forms of income.
“I do tailoring and practice little farming. I don’t have much free time since I spend most of my time with training officers in music that we perform on different occasions,” she says. “Sometimes I also counsel and offer advice to people especially police women infected with HIV/Aids.”
Kakooza has now set her eyes on retirement and she has already prepared for it.
“I have constructed a small house and reserved some piece of land where I do small-scale farming. I have also learnt tailoring and poultry farming which I will practice during my retirement age to keep me busy.”
She advises young officers to be determined and love their work.
“They should avoid being greedy and making quick money through bribes. My advice to anyone wishing to join police is that they shouldn’t look at making quick money. When you love your job, you will be a better police officer and get all the ranks. Young officers should go slowly and step by step until they will make it,” she says.
“Police officers should always rotate on three pillars; namely discipline, reporting bad cases and respect those above them.”