Traffic Police Department Deputy Commandant SAMWEL KIMARU talked to NJOKI CHEGE about the relevance of the Traffic Police Department and criticises the Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2012 that proposes the scrapping of the police unit
Question: In a nutshell, what is the role of the Traffic Police Department?
Answer: First the Traffic Police Department is charged with the major role of enforcing the countryâs traffic rules and regulations. This department has been mandated to specifically handle traffic offences according to Cap 403 of the Traffic Act and Cap 404 of the Transport Licensing Board (TLB) Act. We are also charged with enforcing the Insurance Act. In essence, we are the police department answerable to all things pertaining to traffic rules and regulations in the country.
Q: A new Bill is in Parliament â Traffic (Amendment) Bill 2012 â that if passed will see the traffic unit being scrapped. What is your take on that?
A: In my opinion, it is not advisable to do away with the traffic unit entirely. This is because we will not have anyone in particular to be answerable and responsible for the unit. What we need in this country is an efficient and well equipped traffic unit in order to streamline its operations and make an impact in the country. There is a dire need for more vehicles and ambulances because we handle serious accidents that require special equipment â which at times we do not have.
A: The traffic police officers are a well-trained and all-rounded lot that go through intensive two-month training on several issues they may encounter in their line of duty. The entire department is made up of well trained and highly experienced officers. We are a highly specialised department, just like NSIS or CID, and we have a command structure through which we report. Therefore, opening the department to every Tom, Dick and Harry would dilute the relevance and duties of the Traffic Police Department.
Q: What kind of training do officers of the Traffic Police Department go through that regular police do not undergo?
A: Like I said, it is an all-rounded training. Every traffic officer is able to interpret the laws relevant to the traffic department. They are trained for two months on all matters to do with public service vehicles, opening accident files, managing accident scenes, code of ethics and anti-corruption training. For the inspectorate, we include additional training on leadership, ethics, human rights and other topics which they find useful in their careers.
Q: There has been a negative attitude towards the Traffic Police Department as many Kenyans perceive it as a cash cow because of the bribes that exchange hands. What is your take on that?
A: I agree that there has been a negative attitude surrounding the traffic police department, but we are taking several steps to counter this. First, we have adopted a culture of upholding high discipline standards as we urge the senior officers to set a good example to the junior officers. We have become very aggressive in enforcing discipline among our officers. Secondly, the officers are undergoing various refresher-training programmes to build capacity and change their bad attitude. We have also involved other stakeholders like matatu associations with whom we have had several meetings to tell them to instruct their crew not to part with bribes.
Q: While the Traffic Police Department may be on its way up, there are several setbacks that are pulling it down. What improvements would you like enforced in order to streamline the department?