Amending laws weakens Kenyan police force

Changes to police laws, among them the clipping of the powers of the National Police Service Commission and allowing the President and Parliament to appoint the Inspector General of Police without open recruitment, have been viewed by some as undermining police reforms.

The changes have targeted the National Police Service Commission Act, National Police Service Act and Independent Policing Oversight Authority Act that were intended to implement police reforms recommended by the National Task Force on Police Reforms headed by retired judge Philip Ransley.

Attempts to roll back constitutional gains under the guise of national security climaxed with the Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014. It took the intervention of the constitutional court in February to throw out sections of the legislation, including restrictions on media reporting of security operations that judges ruled violated the Constitution.

The Act affected various clauses touching on police operations, directions and general human resource issues.

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Amendments to the police laws changed the mode of hiring of the Inspector General of Police whose office is independent.

It also affected the powers of the National Police Service Commission on human resource management.

"Amendments proposed by the Inspector General of Police, and endorsed by the Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Co-ordination would severely weaken the reforms and eliminate many of the safeguards created to discipline and regulate the police force," Amnesty International warned in 2013.

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This is how it works.A senior police officer flanked by his colleague shows nominated MP Isaac Mwaura how a police radio call works as they awaited for the arrival of President Uhuru Kenyatta at Zetech University on Friday.The lesson come in handy for the MP from the willing security officiers.

(PHOTO: KAMAU MAICHUHIE/STANDARD)

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Civil society activist and International Centre for Policy and Conflict Director Ndungu Wainaina argues that no fundamental reforms have taken place in the police force yet.

"Given the gravity of the structural, organisational and dysfunctional problem of the police service, far-reaching security agencies' reforms are important to achieve their objectives," he said.

Wainaina claimed introduction of the Security Laws (Amendment) Act 2014 marked the slow death of the service. He gave the example of the office of the Inspector General, which he said was no longer independent.

Further, Wainaina says that security and law enforcement agencies suffer from deep-seated crisis of politicisation, corruption and criminalisation.

"The security sector was constitutionally, comprehensively restructured and reorganised (under the Constitution of Kenya 2010). However, the security organs namely National Police Service, National Intelligence Service and Kenya Defence Forces continue to operate in old model making them ineffective, vulnerable and irrelevant in tackling modern times sophisticated security challenges," he said.

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However, Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery yesterday said the reform agenda is on course. "We are committed to ensuring a reformed police service. We have achieved a lot and I can see a brighter future," he said.

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Amnesty InternationalConstitution of Kenya 2010National Police Service Commission