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ELECTION 2022

Ideal policing strategies Kenya should adopt to guarantee security

COMMENTARY
By Demas Kiprono | Feb 26th 2019 | 4 min read

Scholars have posited there are three theories of policing globally. The first is intelligence driven where the police rely on intelligence and information gathering, data, trends, informants and surveillance to detect and prevent crime and catch criminals. This model has proven vital especially when dealing with organised crimes such as terrorism, drug and human trafficking.

The second model is regime-based policing. In this model, the police exist to serve and protect the interests of those in power. Quite often, the police leadership is handpicked by the president and can be fired at any time. Under this model, those perceived a threat to the political establishment are quickly neutralised at the behest of the ruling class. The political establishment looks the other way when the police extort and brutalise citizens. Regime-based policing does not recognise the rights and legitimacy of the citizenry, especially when they differ with the opinion of the State.

The last model is community-based policing; an approach to policing that recognises the independence and shared responsibility of the police and the community in ensuring a safe and secure environment. It aims at establishing an active partnership between the police and the public through which crime and community safety issues can jointly be discussed and prioritised and solutions determined and implemented.

Nyumba Kumi

In an ideal situation, a country adopts a combination of community and intelligence-based policing premised on the rule of law, democracy and human rights. This is exactly what the Constitution of Kenya 2010 envisioned. Article 244 demands that the National Police Service fosters and promotes relationships with the broader society. Which raises the question: what theory of policing does Kenya follow in reality? Is it regime centred or is it a combination of all three? Has the Nyumba Kumi initiative lived up to its promise?

Community policing fosters dialogue and relationship building; promotes trust and information sharing, which in turn enhances the police’s ability to detect, prevent and tackle crime. At a basic level, it drastically reduces all forms of abuse and brutality.

Such a relationship creates an environment where police and citizens interactions are based on understanding, context and empathy, hence encouraging alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. This also leads to citizens who are more willing to give information to the police because of the trust that has been established.

As such, a police officer would be less likely to resort to force or arrest when dealing with a person who, according to his knowledge of his background is acting outside his norm. He will even know which community elder, religious leader or social worker to call upon to intervene. Suffice it to say, an officer will instinctively use force when dealing with people he has never interacted with. The distance between him and the community and human nature will prevail and thus he will be more likely to rely upon gut instinct.

Network designed

It has been several years since the National Committee on Implementation of Citizen Participation in Security, dubbed ‘Nyumba Kumi’, was rolled out under the leadership of Joseph Kaguthi. It was rightly premised by the realisation that policing is more effective when communities are involved, consulted and factored in policing strategies. It was a reaction to the rise of deadly terror attacks in Kenya between 2011 and 2013.

Sadly, Nyumba Kumi is not anchored in any substantive law. In fact, the only written foundations of it are guidelines published by the Ministry of Interior and the appointment of a Committee to spearhead it. Despite being allocated a budget and secretariat, the initiative’s fruits are yet to be felt by Kenyans mainly because, in my opinion, Nyumba Kumi was introduced to Kenyans as an elaborate government sanctioned network designed for ‘snitching’. Moreover, the name implies that people would be organised and clustered into units of ten households, whose members would be required to know each other and interact for security purposes.

In order to determine the effectiveness of Nyumba Kumi, we should determine whether it has created a conducive environment for community members, especially in informal settlements, to voice their concerns, contribute advice, and take action to address these concerns. So far, this has been true in some rural areas, especially in Meru and Nyeri. How can this model be made effective in urban areas?

Going forward, the Ministry of Interior and Parliament must ensure that Community Policing is properly anchored in law. Additionally, it should officially recognise and work with Community Social Justice Centres which have become information gold mines on security issues, especially in low income areas that face unique security challenges.  

 

Mr Kiprono is a Human Rights [email protected]

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