The RTC Guide to Staying Safe during Elections

Elections are crucial to the success of every democracy and the importance of voting cannot be overemphasized.

2015 is a year of elections for many African countries. As our Nigerian neighbors recently hit the polls, we thought it best to share a few election security tips with our law enforcement alumni. Please keep in mind that all of these ideas are researched by the RTC for the sole purpose of encouraging our alumni to stay safe at work and at home during potentially volatile election days.

While I am not an “elections safety expert,” these notes have been compiled with care and with the hope that they are helpful. If you have ideas that you would like to share, please feel free to comment below or on our Facebook page. Or, if you prefer, you may email us with a request that we anonymously post your tip to other alumni. We are also very interested in hearing about your experiences throughout the election cycle, so we may reach out to you for a quote or a story (like above, it can be anonymous if you prefer.)

That said, here are a list of tips for staying safe on election days:

  1. Neutrality

I’ve never seen a police officer sporting a wristband from his favorite political party, and this is a good thing. As a law enforcement professional, you want the people to trust you for their safety, regardless of political affiliation. This may be compromised if you’re seen to favor one particular political party. When the ballots are being counted at the end of Election Day, it’ll be wise not to take part in the victory dance of the winning party. Play it safe and neutral.

  1. Large Political Gatherings

During election season, there are usually political rallies, protests and political marches organized by different stakeholders. Sometimes these events are “fun” and give the opportunity for the people’s voice to be heard. However it is suggested as a civilian to avoid such gatherings in the days leading to the elections, on the Election Day, and even after Election Day. Some of these events tend to become very rowdy and may even have fatal consequences. The need to be alert is key during such periods. For our law enforcement personnel who are required to work at these events, ensuring that such public manifestations take place within the appropriate (peaceful) framework is important as well.

  1. Communication

Be sure to charge your radio, have extra battery packs if possible, and ensure that you have topped up mobile phone credit before departing for the day.

  1. Emergency Contacts

Election season comes with unpredictable events. It is necessary to save the contact numbers of your local law enforcement agencies (even if you think you know them all by heart), as well as medical emergency services, on your phone to report any suspicious or unforeseen activity that may occur. Also keep an address book of your closest family and friends, especially those in volatile and high risk areas, so you can check on their safety and offer assistance if need be.

  1. Vigilance

Be vigilant and observant and take notice of suspicious vehicles and persons. Be aware of your surroundings, paying special attention to unusual activities and large groups of people. Being sharp and alert at all times is key. To enhance cognitive vigilance, opt to not drink evenings before work, exercise in the morning, and/or spend time with loved ones. These activities can be as important to your ability to focus and plan as early morning team drills and operational planning sessions.

  1. Caring for Family (and Yourself)

Ensure that family members are cared for, as well as yourself, by stocking up on food, fuel, and necessary medicines. While you are at work, family members can remain safe and comfortable at home while listening to the news on television or the radio. And when you return from work, you all may share a nice meal together.

As noted above, we would appreciate more general tips on law enforcement election security that we can all discuss. On that note I’d like to wish Africa a very peaceful and democratic election year!

And oh, one last thing, I’ve always wondered when the police vote? At dawn, before the polls open? Any help? Thanks!


[Post by: Sarah Dadson. Sarah is the Participant & Alumni Coordinator for the West Africa Regional Training Center. Email her at ]