Public confidence in Kenya’s police has always been eroded due to accusations, rightly or wrongly, of impunity, excessive use of force and brutality, disregard for human rights, abuse of due process and malignant corruption.
The promulgation of a new Constitution in August 2010 was designed to change all that. It provided the bedrock for instituting extensive security sector reforms in Kenya after decades of demand for political and socio-economic transformation. Most notably affected by the reforms are the police.
Public outcry for transformation in the police sector has been driven by alleged ills in the police force whose nefarious reputation has eroded public trust. Those feelings continue to persist but the on-going reforms have brought some hope that the ‘force’ will transform into a ‘service’ that is accountable, professional, transparent and possessing a human rights sensitive approach.
The National Police Service (NPS) issued a statement regarding a viral media that showed an officer seemingly trying to steal from his senior. Kenyans were quick to condemn the officer in question, urging DCI boss George Kinoti to apprehend the suspect. However, NPS denied the allegations laid against one of their own, terming it as fake news.
“The video clip doing rounds on social media highlighting what appears to be an act of pickpocketing by a police officer is a misrepresentation of facts and untrue,” read a part of their statement. According to the report, the officer alleged to have attempted the daring heist was a man whose code of conduct could not be questioned.
“The Officer in Charge of Traffic Voi has confirmed that he was not pickpocketed. Equally, the police commander in Voi has confirmed that the officer in question is disciplined and of high integrity,” the NPS disclosed.
On Friday, December 6, Nairobi Governor Mike Mbuvi Sonko was arrested together leading to a scuffle that was captured on a smartphone and shared widely. It was the footage of the Governor’s arrest that caught the attention of hawk-eyed Kenyans, who immediately called out the officer who appeared to be attempting to steal from his boss.
According to the police, the governor obstructed the officers from conducting their duties by being unruly and violent during the arrest.
“During the arrest, Nairobi County Governor Mike Sonko became abusive, unruly and violent in an attempt to resist arrest hence obstructing police officers from the lawful execution of their duties. In the process, he assaulted and injured the senior police officer leading the team and damaged media equipment,” police spokesperson Charles Owino said in a statement.
This proposed model does not seek to replace the various documents in the National Police Service (NPS) but rather to amplify the key areas of reform into a holistic framework that allows for the thinking of reform key elements. The model is set within the framework of aligning mindset – a culture change framework.
Operationalizing Strategic Pillars
Considering the historical police transformational journey and raft of robust reform initiatives by the National Police Service, this model proposes four Transformation Strategic Pillars operationalized through further crystalline priority areas.
My observation is that the aim of a police reform process is not only to develop a police service that can more effectively tackle criminal activity, it should also aim to address the corrosive influence of internal corruption while embedding the highest standards of human rights into a police organization that should be accountable to the public it serves.
The realization of these objectives is central to the development of mature democratic institutions, which can, in turn, foster transformational growth.
There is no doubt in my mind that there have been major positive reform developments within the police service over the past years. Moving forward, I am cognizant that an effective police Transformation must be embedded in key principles that will enable the implementation of the model to be in tandem with the end desired transformational outlook. These are namely:
- Developing crime investigation methodologies in line with human rights standards and principles, free from political control and which adhere to the principles of public accountability and the rule of law.
- Enhancing the police service’s capacity to effectively prevent and investigate criminal activity in a professional, efficient and impartial manner.
- Ensuring that the police service is representative and that its values reflect those held by the general population. In this regard, the police service must develop initiatives to gain public confidence. It can do this by ensuring that the procedures, methodology and practices of the police are accountable to the people and the rule of law through the public’s elected representatives, a transparent internal affairs procedure and the development of an external oversight body.
- Ensuring that the police service operates within an organizational structure that is adapted to fight crime, maintain public safety and assist and support the integrity of the criminal justice system
Governance, Administrative Systems and Processes
However, the transformation of the Police Service should transcend its dealings with other arms of government and the public. It is also crucial that the transformation agenda addresses internal matters of governance, administrative systems and processes.
For instance, the staff may desire to be part of a dynamic and functional organization with an appealing organizational culture, suitable organizational structures and an enabling and conducive working environment where productivity and creativity are valued and rewarded. The staff would further wish to be treated with respect and aspire to be part of an institution that is effective, upholds integrity and commands public respect.
Animating the Transformation
The imperatives for the transformation are therefore manifold. To respond to these imperatives and ensure that the transformation is authentic, thorough-going and sustainable, I propose a Transformation model that is informed by previous internal and external reports and a wide range of consultations with relevant stakeholders.
I hope that this proposed model will enable the Police Service to adopt a holistic approach that is built on sector-wide collaboration, strategic and technical partnerships and benchmarked on emerging national, regional and global smart practice.
This model articulates, in bold strokes, the blueprint of a Police Service’s transformation; the policies which animate the transformation; and the broad strategies which may deliver the ultimate goal of the transformation: expeditious delivery of police reforms in a fair, impartial, and equitable manner irrespective of status.
The global overview
The reform of the police service is crucial to the development of a stable democracy in all parts of the world, the creation of an open market economy and the development of a political and social structure representative of the values and needs of society.
Both international organizations and governments have failed to recognize the crucial role that reforming the police service plays. The maintenance of law and order, while being a clichéd term, implies more than training police officers and increasing their visibility on the streets.
The major task facing Governments today is the concerted, coordinated and sophisticated actions of organized crime syndicates. Such activity takes advantage of disorientation during periods of transition to gain sway with political elements.
This enables rogue elements, to infiltrate the economy and to manipulate both social and economic environment. What must occur with the development of democratic institutions is the development of a police service with an ideological ability to objectively uphold the rule of law in a manner that is compliant with the human rights norms.
The police force in many African states are poorly equipped and their relations with the public and integrity are always in tatters. They are organizations emerging from a prolonged period of national isolation and largely unaware of developments occurring in policing methodology across the globe. During this period the police become highly militarized instrument of political power tasked with serving the regime rather than the public.
The Transformation process must, therefore, be driven by the need to build a police service that is representative of the population, and effective in crime prevention and investigation. Additionally, in order to prevent the tragic past from reoccurring. This model advocates ensuring that a police service would be more accountable to the democratically-elected political representatives with the police equipment, processes and practices modernized to meet international norms.
The local scenario
A National Police Service is a state institution operating under the national authority and within the national sovereignty. It is the most visible representative of the state and by extension, the attitudes that are exhibited by the Police in any jurisdiction is the same attitude that the state is assumed to possess.
A country that is confronted by high levels of corruption, alcohol abuse, physical violence, nepotism and other forms of human rights violations is expected to have a police system that mirrors all these values in their service delivery and in interaction with members of the public. This presents a challenge to Policing as the state has the primary responsibility of protecting and promoting human rights.
The Police has been confronted with a series of the challenges described above based on the fact that the country is coming from a dynamic and demanding environment, from a regime that has always considered as highly undemocratic and characterized with a series of ills and human rights violations that include massacres, political assassinations, torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatments that has affected the delivery of services to the citizens.
The NPS is one among the organs enumerated in Chapter Fourteen of the Kenyan Constitution 2010 on National Security. This organ is supposed to deliver the country’s goals of; safety, security and stability. The other organs mandated with this onerous task are; (a) the Kenya Defense forces and (b) the National Intelligence Service, (Article 239 of the constitution of Kenya).
The principles of National security as laid out in the constitution include; the protection against internal and external threats to Kenya’s territorial and integrity and sovereignty, its people, their rights, their freedoms, property, peace, stability and prosperity and other national interests, (Article 238:1).
For these reasons, the criticality of national security in the constitution is given sufficient significance. The constitution further subscribes to the operating environment upon which national security must be pursued, “with the utmost respect for, rule of law, democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms (Article 238:2(b).
The police service never really endeared itself to the citizens; it was removed from communities and was treated more with suspicion than with trust.
This proscription of the operating environment of national security organs is particularly important because it not only specifies the bounded limits of national security; it places the central role of the preservation for security, peace and important values of rights and freedoms on the three organs.
Whereas the role of the Kenya Defense Forces and the National Intelligence cannot be downplayed, the role of the National Police Service is particularly conspicuous because the police are indeed the human face of national security. The ubiquity of police officers geographically and in many other facets of life means that the police-citizen interaction is inevitable. For this reason the imagery citizens have of national security is shaped by interaction with the National Police service as an institution and with individual police officers.
For this reason, there is an imperative to transform the police service into an institution that is citizen-centered and citizen-friendly. Suffice to say that historically the relationship between the police and citizens has been frictional rather than collaborative, which has eroded the spirit of togetherness and endangered the achievement of national security goals. The police service never really endeared itself to the citizens; it was removed from communities and was treated more with suspicion than with trust.
Whereas every institution of governance, either in its constitutional design or responsibility, has a duty to oversee this reconstruction, the National Police Service occupies a unique place in this task. This is because the National Police Service is tasked with the important role of improving the safety and well-being of persons, localities and communities in Kenya. In many respects, therefore, the National Police Service is the ultimate agency that will oversee a successful transition.
For the National Police Service to ably perform this role, it must lift itself out of years of political servitude, financial insecurity, low standards of professionalism, widespread corruption and delinquent jurisprudence, and into a position of institutional independence and autonomy that secures public confidence and jurisprudence that commands peer respect.
I use the term “Transformation” as a model both intentionally and as a necessity. It conveys a clear understanding of the vision of maintaining law and order as mandated by the Constitution as well as the National Police Service’s role in its attainment.
It is clear that Transformation is necessary to provide the opportunity for the service to adjust to a changing operating environment occasioned by security, political and legal dynamics in order to deliver professional policing services to the ever-changing public demand.
Dr Elijah Achoch is a Human Resource Management and Development Specialist and an adjunct lecturer in Kenya’s top universities Business Schools. He holds a PhD degree in HRM from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. Email: [email protected]