In Uganda’s 2016 elections, international and national commentators questioned the role that the government’s crime preventers – or community police – would play. Many claimed that they would be used “as tools” to rig the elections, intimidate voters, and vote en masse for the ruling National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime. In contrast, this paper shows that the government never intended the crime preventers to play an explicitly coercive role. Instead, the NRM leadership intentionally structured the crime preventer program as indefinite and fluid, allowing political authorities and citizens to understand the purpose of crime preventers alternately as dangerous tools of the regime, family men in search of work, or patriotic citizens of Uganda. Used interchangeably, these logics – which are described in this paper as ideal-typical categories of political, economic, and social – prevented Ugandans from accurately assessing the program. The resultant uncertainty fragmented organization of crime preventers, civil society, and members of the opposition; limited the government’s responsibility for crime preventers; and helped ensure that crime preventers would bolster the strength of the NRM regime in the 2016 elections.