BWIRE: Police reforms incomplete without input of security sector

Whatever we do, the principle must be to enable and improve their operational structures

In Summary
  • Even where in the most extreme cases leaders give directions, police operations must remain guarded.
  • In most cases even in conventional wars like what is happening in Ukraine or DR Congo, community support for police operations is very critical.

Intelligence-based policing will always triumph over the use of force given the politicized nature of security in Kenya.

Lessons learnt from how the country handled terrorism through an integrated approach to dealing with the situation-anchored a comprehensive national strategy including economic, social, political and media pillars to contain the menace gives lessons to those working on police reforms in the country on where the shoe pinches most.

Whatever we do to reform the police, the principle must be to enable and improve their operational structures and efficiency to maintain law and order in the country.

We must restore the face of the police, in public and community trust, enable information gathering, infiltration of criminal networks, use of experts in policing work, high coordination of police operations, a well-equipped and trained service, anchored on an accountable and transparent leadership that priorities and mainstreams the welfare and professional growth of officers.

A professional service must be allowed to plan and execute their operations based on intelligence gathered, collaborated by the other arms in the security sector, and even if under the orders of politicians, appear independent in their handling of crimes.

Even where in the most extreme cases leaders give directions, police operations must remain guarded, and executed in the professional manner the command structure deems most appropriate.

In most cases even in conventional wars like what is happening in Ukraine or DR Congo, community support for police operations is very critical to the success of their work.

Thus the police in addition to working closely with the national coordination units at the counties, require support from the NIS, community members and experts within its ranks, to engage in combating crime.

The police require to have in its ranks various professional cadres and experts, that will be involved in information gathering, analyzing crime trends, and legal review of approaches to dealing with some situations including complicated crime webs such as money laundering, transnational organized crimes, cybercrime, and economic crimes.

Just looking at the recent insecurity and directive of officers including the KDF in some parts of North Rift, gives the complications that face security officers, required to face armed suspects, who are supported by their communities and in terrain, they understand better- in a publicly announced war- many times which the police themselves and the communities seem to perceive as unfair- which in the long run require a civilian approach rather than a purely armed approach.

The community and other related underground approaches are very critical in gradually tracing, understanding the networks and charging suspects in a court of law, than operations that would seem targeted at executions.

The war on terrorism has taught us this-use a multi-agency approach and avoid securitization of the operations to deal with the suspects. Create properly guided amnesty mechanisms, and solve the economic, social and cultural challenges that break ground for criminal activities- provide alternatives, counsel those surrendering and engage- make the community trust that they are part of the solution.

The leadership of the police must face and convince their bosses to publicly depoliticize police operations even if the orders are given behind the scenes.

The perception created is important- that they are being ordered- it shows that they are not ready and efficient in their work.

It fails to insulate them from a perception of bias- This goes again to call for more comprehensive, protected, regular and planned horizontal and vertical information sharing including elaborate public education and outreach by the police in the communities.

Specific messages on why crime doesn’t pay, community benefits that come with secure and peaceful living and interventions for those abandoning crime might help a lot in dealing with crimes.

The Justice David Maraga team is collecting views on reforms in the police and prison services, and the current operational procedures in the North Rift can give you a glimpse. We need more collaboration and an integrated approach to deal with the cattle rustling problem in that area- it requires more than just guns.

The Constitution 2010 places police reforms at the heart of our Constitutional implementation process- since 1992, the police force was allegedly involved in political assassinations, torture of political detainees, extra-judicial killings of suspects, brutal clamping down of protestors in political rallies, perpetration of sexual and gender-based violence among others.

Article 244 of the Constitution demands that the National Police Service, strive for the highest standards of professionalism and discipline among its members; prevent corruption and promote and practice transparency and accountability, comply with constitutional standards of human rights and fundamental freedoms and train staff to the highest possible standards of competence and integrity and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and dignity.

Also, The Waki report made recommendations among them; a complete audit of the current police management, structures, policies, practices and procedures and an examination of the structures, including the Senior Executive; thorough examination, review and revision of all tactics, weapons and ‘use of force’ employed by the Kenyan Police among other things.

The Ransely Report recommended the reforms in the police will only succeed if those given the mandate to lead the reforms in the service are officers with leadership and management skills, have high moral integrity, and have the ability to spearhead reforms.

A strong reform implementation team must be created, that will work on a full culture change program.

A publication by the Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative done on Kenya makes several suggestions including requiring that our officers adopt new ways of doing things, relook at community policing, move away from the use of force and mighty in the preservation of public order and enforcement of the law to intelligence-based approaches, extensive training on modern crime-fighting techniques, safety and protection tactics.

Kenya’s Economic Recovery and Wealth Creation Strategy of 2003/2007 recommended a decrease in the overall police and population ratio- more officers required, design and implement a public education intervention to build police/public trust, recruiting experts into the service who must be trained and retrained in complex emerging issues such as cybercrime, technology, provide officers with modern policing tools and equipment, improve the welfare of the officers- housing, medical cover, field operation support and facilitation.

Officers lack basic working tools including bulletproof jackets, helmets, and insurance- which seriously compromises their work- the worst that is seen is when police officers nowadays use their personal mobile phone numbers and airtime to do official work and communication.

The national forensic laboratory is needed like yesterday while the recruitment of professional cadres of people into the force must be prioritised.

We need a culture change program, especially the introduction of leadership, culture change and lifesaving skills at the police training colleges including media relations, public speaking, and development of crisis communication approaches to policing among others.

Deliberate public outreach and community involvement to change the perception of the police by the public must be initiated and supervised to happen and civilian oversight must extend to preventive actions, mishandling of information and cases among other things, and counselling, among others.

Officers need retraining on basic safety tips including self-protection, risk identification and mitigation, first aid, handling demonstrations, bomb blast scenes, and information technology-related threats among others.

We must appreciate officers where they have done well and allow merit to guide promotions, deployments, and careers in the force.

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