Police reforms have been on the cards for a long time since the promulgation of the Kenya Constitution 2010. Yet the gains, if any, have been piecemeal. Starting with the change of name from Police Force to Police Service, the formation of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority to the National Police Service, a lot of public expectation rode on those changes, but not much has been realised.
However, it seems as if something is now being done. At a conference with regional police commanders early this week, Internal Security Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i outlined measures put in place to make the Police Service more efficient. Among the measures are embracing a digital method of dealing with crime in real time and equipping the police forensic lab with state-of-the-art gear. Further, President Uhuru Kenyatta has received a proposal on the absorption of 22,000 Administration Police officers into the National Police Service.
Admittedly, a lot of resources have been expended on the police. These include better remuneration, medical and insurance cover, improved housing, an additional 525 police vehicles to assist mobility and improve reaction time to emergencies, armoured personnel carriers and surveillance cameras in strategic places to aid real-time monitoring of trouble spots. But lack of will and reluctance to shift from the archaic manner of doing things stand in the way of better service delivery for the police.
In addition to these changes, it seems a new police uniform is in store for the officers. However, emphasis should not be merely on cosmetic changes such as uniforms. The biggest game changer for the police will be a shift in mind-set and the ability to keep up with technological advances by adopting modern policing methods. Above all, the need for a better relationship with the public cannot be overemphasised.
At best, the relationship between the police and the public is lukewarm, yet the latter’s effectiveness is largely dependent on public trust to allow easy flow of information on criminal activities in society. Law breakers are known to residents of every locality, but since police harass, rather than treat informers with dignity, a lot of sensitive information is withheld from them. The police must treat the public, not as potential criminals, but partners in policing.