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November 21, 2018

We Need A Police Force Built On Dignity

National police service commission chairman Johnstone Kavuludi during the police vetting at the KICC yesterday.Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE
National police service commission chairman Johnstone Kavuludi during the police vetting at the KICC yesterday.Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

When the negroes, whom the black traders had to sell, were shown to the European buyers, they minutely inspected their persons, and inquired into the state of their health: if they were afflicted with any infirmity, or were deformed, or have bad eyes or teeth; if they were lame, or weak in the joints, or distorted in the back, or of a slender make, or were narrow in the chest — in short, if they had been or were afflicted in any manner, so as to render them incapable of much labour. If any of the foregoing defects are discovered in them, they are rejected.

When you see this very same system being used to recruit our police officers being put in use today, my stomach churns. Don't these people have a sense of history. Don't they even know why our colonial masters used this as a recruiting method? The mubeberu was very clear that he was hiring a native who could withstand hardship. Someone who could walk for long hours, stand around for long, endure hardship and perhaps carry a heavy rifle or maybe themubeberu boss over a long period.

This was basically a beast of burden in uniform. Please note, the mzungu wasn’t hired on this basis. No-one looked at his teeth or examined his running stamina. He was hired and paid to think. The poor African was paid to withstand harsh conditions, live on little and basically be a "body".

How dare you continue a recruitment system that was put in place to give the wretched a chance at being close to the “master” in a world where those same masters don't recruit in their own countries in the same way — even today. How dare you use such a demeaning system that has no place in the job description of a police officer to determine if he makes the cut? This person who should demand respect, uphold the law and ooze authority has failed before he begins because we have allowed the recruiting process to be beneath even the makanga he must deal with daily. Forget the criminal element who is miles ahead of him intellectually. Really?

The world changed. You and I changed. The criminal element changed. Laws changed. The needs of a community that must be policed changed — but no, the very description of the policeman or policewoman, the very nature of what their job is and how they get recruited hasn’t changed in Kenya. Why?

The police officer who operates amongst us has to be part philosopher, sociologist and criminologist. The unlawful element (you and I) are all these and more.

Police work is a people business. Any officer at any rank serving anywhere in the world, including Kenya, can attest that the situations they deal with differ significantly from those in the past. Why then are we still recruiting our force based on a system so shallow, that aims to belittle the recruits that we know they will simply pass on that sense of “smallness” to the public. Why?

My short stint in Harvard last year had me on a university campus that had the Canadian Mounted Police and the FBI in training. Why? Well my friends, the criminals and the law breakers don’t sleep. They’re up all night thinking of new ways to evade the law — the police force around the world is upping their game. In Kenya, we are looking at teeth!

Police the world over are thinking about the challenges they are likely to face in the 21st century. Most police forces are wondering if they have the appropriate organisational structure, knowledge, skills and expertise, the education and training, the assessment and reward systems, the equipment, the cooperative relationships and the right attitudes to be able to adapt to change —we are checking teeth.

An article in Platypus Magazine that dug into the issues modern police forces are facing the world over noted that three of the most significant mega-trends are:

• the continuing development and exploitation of information technology and Internet-based communication and commerce;

• globalisation; and

• the expansion of human rights.

And yes… We are checking teeth, looking at your chest cavity and seeing how fast you can run. Really? Photography, the telephone, automobiles, mobile radios, tape-recorders, fingerprint technology and DNA profiling are a few of the technological innovations that have been introduced into policing over the years to improve effectiveness. They have also influenced how police organisations function, what elements of the police role received the most attention and how police do their work. But not here, no here we want to see your teeth. Smile!

As society has become increasingly reliant on information technology, criminals have come to use information technology in their activities. Theft, fraud, morals offences, kidnapping, terrorism, extortion or blackmail all have the potential to be carried out electronically and, in some cases are already on the Internet. It will soon no longer be sufficient to train a few investigators in carrying out computer investigations. All police officers will have to have some training in the recognition of offences committed by computer and how electronic evidence can be obtained and preserved.

Police work is likely to become more electronically based and more complex the greater the extension of information technology into business and everyday life. We can’t recruit a force from a grade below average and then make the knock-out process a dental competition. We must up our game and ask ourselves, who are we setting up this police force for? Who are they going up against?

If we need them to stand around, walk in the sun carrying at 6kg of rifle, then sawa; let’s stick to teeth and speed. If we want them to clean mkubwa’sshoes and cook for him — then by all means, check his teeth and his chest cavity and give the man a uniform.

But if we are serious about law enforcement and security for a nation that has this fancy document called Vision 2030, then let’s get serious about our police force. We and they need to know that our police force embodies some of the finest minds we have. They are not the left overs after we picked doctors, pilots, journalists, politicians, radio presenters, musicians, teachers, CEOs, pastors, makanga and criminals. Please give the police force esteem so that we can in turn hold them in esteem. Watching those young men being recruited by ridicule broke my heart and also frightened me. What is the criminal element thinking? I shudder to contemplate.

Johnstone Kavuludi, maybe you can’t promise better pay or housing or life insurance to the force, but you most certainly owe our police force dignity, social standing. How you recruit them is the beginning of that journey.

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