With a clerical collar on his police inspector's uniform, a swagger stick firmly tucked under his right arm, William Sifuna easily commands attention on the dusty streets of Maralal town.
Known on the streets as "the preaching policeman" Chief Inspector Sifuna has employed a unique way of fighting crime in the banditry-prone area; using a Bible.
In a region where gunfights can erupt any time, mostly over livestock theft, Sifuna gives bandits a second chance - return what you stole, ask for forgiveness from whoever you stole it from, and swear never to steal again.
And it is not just words; the thief must state how he or she intends to stay out of crime and convince Sifuna with some long-term plan.
However, should any criminal decide to play rough and go for the trigger, then they will find their match in Chief Inspector Sifuna. He will not hesitate to use his gun.
"I am prepared to defend myself if faced with a deadly threat. But I prefer using love and mediation," he says.
Sifuna is stationed at the Maralal town police station in Samburu County, which handles tough cases of banditry and cattle rustling.
A trained counselor and an accredited mediator by the High Court, Sifuna also preaches at Elshadai Restoration Ministries church in Maralal.
He firmly believes that divine intervention can change even the most battle-hardened bandit.
In an interview with The Standard in Maralal town, where he was overseeing security during the Maralal International Camel Derby, Sifuna said he believed that God, not guns alone, could best handle the country’s crime rate.
“To tackle crime, we need God. We cannot do this by ourselves. We need God’s intervention in everything that we are doing as the police force,” he said.
During a morning patrol in the streets of Maralal town, it was clear that most of those who had crossed paths with Sifuna in the past had since become part of his flock.
“Before I lock them up, I take an opportunity to preach to them or counsel them. And when they step out of the cold cells, most of them confess and turn away from crime,” Sifuna says.
Sifuna is a common face in the streets, a regular visitor at boda boda stages in town, where he preaches to the operators, a bold figure in mediation talks and key speaker in church every Sunday.
His name, too, pops up whenever a colleague at work requires counseling.
Still, he is a policeman first, then a preacher.
“I enforce the law, but in a rather interactive manner. I prefer less congested cells and I deal with most petty offenders within the cells," says Sifuna.
"The strategy is simple: I listen to their side of the story, counsel them and mediate on petty cases,” he says.
He has set up a rescue centre at the police station for the most vulnerable children, often victims of defilement and those found in the streets.
“Most of the children, especially those who were defiled, were not safe at all to go back to the same places where the offenses happened, and I thought for those who the court felt were not safe could be provided with an alternative place as the case proceeded," he says.
He also oversees the operations of a children’s home in Kilimambogo that currently houses 31 children, besides his charity work in remote parts of Samburu. All these, he says, is part of being a police officer.
It is simple, he says, as all it takes is attitude and values, something that the police service is working to embrace.
“As police officers, when we respect the people, they will respect us back. Police officers just need to approach people with respect. We are called to protect and reassure people,” he says.
Some of the petty cases he helps mediate, he says, boil down to domestic issues that can be easily resolved.
“I follow them up, even if it involves bringing in the family, as long as a solution is reached and the offender does not return to the cells,” says.
Those who know Sifuna say he has succeeded in demystifying law enforcement and changed how police officers relate with ordinary Kenyans.
“He is a whole new definition of a police officer," says Mwangi Nderitu, a pastor at Alshadai Restoration ministries.
"You can easily tell Rev Sifuna apart from his peers. He often interacts more with people," says Washington Kenyani, a banker in Maralal.
"He is a friendly officer. He always passes by our boda boda stage, greeting everyone and asking how we are doing," says Fredrick Lewano, a boda boda operator.
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