West-gate: Private guards to join national security infrastructure

 Westgate Mall in Westlands, Nairobi. [File, Standard]

Ten years ago today, gunmen suspected to be terrorists attacked a mall in Nairobi, killing 67 people and injuring many others.

At the frontline, before the police and military personnel arrived, were private security guards on their normal duties, some lost their lives at the West-gate mall in Westlands.

The guards remain the first line of defence in potential terror attacks a reality forcing the government to incorporate them in counter-terrorism efforts.

Today, the Interior Ministry, through the Private Security Regulatory Authority (PSRA), opens an avenue through which such guards will aid in combating crimes and improve timely sharing of information across the security sector.

PSRA Chief Executive Officer Fazul Mohammed said as a result of terror attacks, security agencies have realised the importance of private security to be incorporated into war against terrorism.

“Private guards were not incorporated into the national strategy on counter terrorism, but these are the people who come as the first line of defence,” Fazul explained.

He added that, “they are the people who interact with criminals even before the crime happens. The industry has about one million people distributed in all sectors and government facilities.”

In July, Interior PS Raymond Omollo announced private guards would be issued with Security Force Numbers.

“At the heart of these security reforms is providing them with the right training so that they can detect, deter and effectively respond to current and emerging security threats appropriately,” the PS stated.

He said curriculum and training guidelines not only meet growing demand for well trained professionals but also raise the bar for industry standards.

In 2016, the government enacted the law to regulate the private security industry and integrate it into national security infrastructure.

However, the guards will undergo rigorous vetting before starting the training. Fazul said security guards will be trained using a curriculum developed jointly by a team from KDF, police, Intelligence and other agencies. 

The training will equip them with crucial skills on how to conduct searches, what to look for and how to respond in case of an attack.

The guards will also be required to have a certificate of good conduct, ID, KRA and other details. “We are trying them on the criminal justice system so any guard now can identify any evidence and preserve it,” Fazul said.

This, he said will make them suitable to assist when they are called to cooperate with the national security organs.

The training takes 330 hours for new comers but every year they have to go through a refresher. Once they are done with the training, the guards will be issued with force number and their details updated in database that brings together all guards in employment.

The ministry says the Guard Force Number will bear the name of the guard, identification number and other details. 

“The guard force number made of coper and brass is a game changer and will boost their confidence and will help in an event of misconduct, it will be easy to report,” Fazul said. 

Kenya National Private Security Workers Union (KNPSWU) secretary general Isaac Andabwa lauded the training, noting that guards are an untapped well in intelligence efforts.

"Living among the public makes them the eyes of the security agencies, yet this has not been exploited. If we empower them with knowledge and ensure they have the correct tools of trade, depending on the nature of their assignments, we can avoid many attacks," he said.

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