POLICING

Coherence key in ongoing police reforms

It is sensible to expect the second team of commissioners and the new Inspector General, Hillary Mutyambai, to ride on the efforts made by their predecessors and take the reforms to another level

In Summary

• The reforms’ drive should domesticate the concepts of smart and rightful policing, currently the buzz words in professional policing.

• Institutional reforms take long to accomplish due to time.

Police march in their new uniform during the launch at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi on 13 September, 2018
Police march in their new uniform during the launch at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi on 13 September, 2018
Image: COURTESY

On September 13 last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched the Policy Framework and Strategy for the Re-organization of the National Police Service.

The framework was purposed to streamline command and service delivery structures within the Kenya Police Service, Administration Police Service and Directorate of Criminal Investigations, all falling under the unified command of the Inspector General.

This demonstrated political goodwill to the ongoing police reforms.

Since then, substantial ground has been covered on the reforms agenda, spearheaded by the National Police Service Commission and the Office of the Inspector General, as documented in the Inaugural Commissioners’ Exit Report, by the first team of commissioners and candidly articulated by former Inspector General Joseph Boinnet in his exit message.

 

However, institutional reforms take long to accomplish due to the time and effort expended to introduce, implement, review/revise and internalise them to develop a new institutional culture.

With that understanding, it is sensible to expect the second team of commissioners and the new Inspector General, Hillary Mutyambai, to ride on the efforts made by their predecessors and take the reforms to another level.

Fortunately, the new NPSC chairman, Eliud Kinuthia, and Mutyambai pledged as much in their acceptance speeches. On that score, here are a couple of perspectives on the reforms posture, which they may wish to ponder.

One, the inter-service merging of officers for redeployment to the various service delivery formations and units should be undertaken prudentially, to forestall potential pockets of disquiet.

As experienced elsewhere, it is an onerous task to change police organisations and their cultures in pursuit of reforms. Indeed, as Dorothy Guyot, a criminal justice expert, famously stated, “creating change in police departments can be like bending granite.” 

Nevertheless, difficult as it may to abruptly change entrenched police sub-cultures, it can be done progressively with resolute determination and commitment of purpose.

The move should have service coherence in skills, training and operational knowledge on how to deal with, say, criminal incidence, public disorder, or even road traffic interventions in the execution of the primary police function of maintenance of law and order.

This coherence is vital and must be zealously cultivated here because the functional remits and training curricula of the ‘pre-reforms’ regular and administration police officers are historically distinct.

Consequently, harmonised operational re-orientation and training will be unavoidably crucial for the merged teams to create the desired synergy.

Two, there should be a serious re-think about the role of criminal investigators in the so-called ‘crime control loop,’ which essentially combines skills, tactics, measures and actors required to deal with the incidence of recurring crime problems.

It is commendable that our current policing is, for all intents and purposes, intelligence-led. Granted, this policing style is anchored on gathered information, which focuses more on prolific offenders, criminally active groups and networks, and places more emphasis on detection, prevention, control and enforcement.

 

So, whereas all police officers are expected to be guided by those guiding principles, it is criminal investigators who, by dint of their investigative work, hold valuable information on recurring crimes and likely perpetrators, thus being better placed to respond appropriately in crime control initiatives.

Indeed, it is now well established through criminal research studies that criminal investigators’ knowledge tends to be more offender centric, whereas general duty police officers’ knowledge is more place, victim and place type-centric.

Traditionally, however, the role of crime control, not only in Kenya but also in a few other countries, is the reserve for the general duty police, leaving out criminal investigators, who only get involved after a crime is committed.

There is a persuasive need to change this mindset and re-orientate our criminal investigators from being only reactive to the investigation of crimes, to also getting actively involved in crime control and prevention, as is the obtaining trend in modern policing.

In particular, investigators should work more closely with their colleagues in general duty to develop innovative measures to effectively control, prevent, frustrate or disrupt crimes, especially in responding to major criminality such as terrorism and corruption, now posing a real threat to our national security.

We should, therefore, have more criminal investigators participate, alongside their general duty peers, in local anti-crime policing initiatives, including police/public crime control and prevention outreach, as a matter of course.

Finally, and beyond the foregoing, the reforms’ drive should domesticate the concepts of smart and rightful policing, currently the buzz words in professional policing.

In sum, the former aims at creating a culture of operational collaboration with both internal and external partners to create an environment of operational cohesion and collective efficacy in provision of security and public safety; the latter aspires to engender procedural justice, or fairness of police officers’ conduct, and how to achieve lawfulness and effectiveness in policing, by engendering trust in police among the public.

By and large, if these perspectives were to somewhat inform the service delivery reforms, in particular, chances are that the usual operational ‘turf’ fights and the disgrace of ‘rogue’ officers should be no more, and NPS could truly become a ‘World Class Police Service,’ proudly responsible for a safe and secure society.

Mwangi is a law enforcement and security management consultant