Resila Atieno Onyango - Police spokesman
After teaching for a while, Resila Atieno Onyango pursued a Science in Criminology Masters degree before undertaking a Master's in Crimínal Justice and eventually graduated with her PhD.  [ Photo / Nation.africa ]

Growing up in Ugenya Siaya County, Resila Onyango had a weird obsession with female police officers. She would stop and just admire female police officers whenever she encountered them. At this young age, she knew she wanted to wear that uniform and cap with the crown.

But as fate would have it, after Lwak Girls High School she joined university to study a bachelor of educatíon in arts, a course that took her straight to the classroom.

Resila Atieno Onyango graduated from Moi University in 2002 with a Bachelor of Educatíon (Arts) degree, but the childhood images of female police officers still lingered in her mind. 

After teaching for a while, she went on to pursue a Science in Criminology Masters degree at the University of Pennsylvania in 2010 before undertaking a Master of Philosophy degree course in Crimínal Justice in 2013 at the City University of New York where she eventually graduated with her PhD in 2018. 

In 2003, her dream came true when she got an opportunity to train as a police officer at the then Kenya Police College in Kiganjo, where she emerged the best female recruit, earning her the cane of honour awarded by the Head of State.

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In Early November 2022, she was named National Police Service Spokesperson, replacing Bruno Shioso who was promoted to National Police Service Training Campus commandant in Kiganjo.

Besides holding one of the most active jobs in the police force, she has the enviable distinction of donning a PhD in a profession known less for academics than its crude tactics of enforcing the law. In fact, Dr Onyango is the first female police officer, in the history of the National Police Service, to earn a doctorate degree.

He academic achievement has been good PR for the police force which was seen as a dumping ground for academic failures. “This is for the good of the national police service and all of us in general,” Dr Onyango, then a Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) and the Deputy Director of Planning at the Office of the Inspector General of Police, said in an interview with Daily Nation.

Dr Onyango earned her PhD in Crimínal Justice from the Graduate Center /John Jay College of Crimínal Justice – The City University of New York (CUNY), USA under the CUNY Graduate Centre Doctorate Fellowship.

Interestingly, most of her studies, including the PhD, have been courtesy of scholarships which she says she picked from newspaper advertisements. “Getting these kinds of scholarships is not easy. Persistence and patience pay. Once you get the scholarship, you have to pass the exams, which calls for a lot of hard work,” she adds.

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Dr Onyango applauds the police service management for supporting and giving her the opportunity to further her educatíon.

She learned over time to serve in a service that for decades was male-dominated. But she notes that the two-thirds gender rule is shifting the tide with more women joining the service and rising through the ranks.

Dr Onyango, who likes swimming and jogging, advises young women aspiring to be police officers to fear not. “There is no restriction, even if you are a doctor, lawyer or anything, you can join the service. And even though the training is tough, being a police officer is a very good career,” says Dr Onyango.

International Awards

She has previously worked at the Kenya Police headquarters public relations office in the Rift Valley region, and at the National Police Senior Staff College in Loresho, Nairobi.

Dr Onyango has also worked at the International Crimínal Police Organisation (Interpol) at the regional bureau of East Africa as a crimínal intelligence officer. She has taught crimínal justice both at John Jay College of Crimínal Justice USA, and locally at the USIU-Africa. She gets regular invites to speak at Drexel University, USA, in her capacity as a crimínal justice expert.

Dr Onyango is a recipient of various international awards, including the PEO International Peace Scholarship and the Margaret McNamara Educatíon Grant- 2016, the Graduate Center-CUNY Doctoral Fellowship: 2013-2018, Dr James Fyfe Fellow- 2016 and the Ford Foundation International Fellowships Program- 2009-2010.

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This story of Dr Resila Atieno Onyango, is proudly brought to you by Black & White, the blended scotch whiskey from EABL. Dr Onyango, now the National Police Service spokesperson, is the first police officer in Kenya to have a PhD.


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