Address the missing links in reforming police force

Developing and maintaining effective systems of policing is crucial. Kenyans desire to live in a united, peaceful, orderly and progressive country. The police service is therefore a critical component in helping achieve Kenya’s development goals. Kenyans deserve the best police officers as security is paramount. This can be done. It is not mission impossible. All the nation needs are men and women in uniform who can demonstrate on a daily basis the attributes of world class police officers who make life better for citizens.

Police reforms is simply the transformation of the police service into an effective, efficient and highly accountable institution. An effective, efficient and professional police service is and can be the pride of the nation. An expanding economy is a function of effective policing.

Since independence in 1963, there have been efforts to reform the police. Police reforms are necessitated by dynamic changes in the society. According to the World Internal Security and Police Index, the Kenya Police does not feature among the 10 highest ranked police services in the world nor the best 10 in Africa. This is a cause for concern.

Yes, the police experience environmental, work related and resources constraints. Yet, despite these, the Kenya Police can be reformed effectively and efficiently to measure up to the expectations of Kenyans. Experiences elsewhere show that successful police reforms benefit from five domains: Strategic staffing, effective trainings, accountability (legitimacy), good resources and supportive socio-political environment. First, strategic staffing is about acquiring, training, appraising, and compensating the right type and number of personnel into the police service to effectively meet its institutional goals. Kenya has 110,000 officers for a population of 51 million.

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That is one police officer for every 464 citizens. This compares favourably with the best ratios of police officers to citizens anywhere yet Kenyans’ satisfaction with the police service isn’t as high. Second, training and leadership. Great police service is about building enduring institutions based on the theory of institutional logic. In this regard, there is need to review not only the attributes of all the new entrances of the police, their training needs, but also the quality of “the leadership pipeline” – the internal architecture for growing the lower and middle level cadres. As they say, animals see by smell, kings by spies, but professional by knowledge.

Public confidence

Officers commanding police stations is where the rubber meets the road in police work. Third, accountability (legitimacy). Enhancing police accountability and integrity is meant to create, restore public confidence and rebuild legitimacy that is prerequisite for effective policing. Police must act in the best interest of the citizens.

Fourth, adequate resources allocation. By and large, Kenyans agree that given our state of economic development, the police service gets its fair share of budgetary allocation. However, given the poor state of most of the police facilities, there is need for improvement. For instance, each of the 47 counties should have one police station as a model, starting with Nairobi Central Police Station, renaming it Madaraka Police Station.

Institutions anywhere are environmental dependent. The Kenya Police Service is not exceptional. This view of police service performance may be called ‘root-causism’. This is the idea that many social ills such as dishonesty, corruption, lawlessness, crime trends and cheating are symptoms of “some deep moral ailment and never be mitigated by simplistic treatment which fail to cure the gangrene at the core,” to quote one Steven Pinker. This means that effective, enduring police reforms will much depend on the character of the larger body of the Kenyan society.

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Continuous public sector reforms are never an ending process. Institutions are hardly murdered. They simply die of a stroke by failing to measure up the public aspirations. Kenyans deserve the best of police service. It takes focused determination and all round exceptional leadership to deliver successful police reforms. Who can argue that we do not have these elements and have them in good measure?

- Writer is a management consultant. Email: [email protected]

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