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BBI proposal on police agency a very bad idea

By Demas Kiprono | October 30th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

President Uhuru Kenyatta reads through the Building Bridges Initiative report when he received it at State House, Nairobi. [Standard]

Billions of shillings have been spent on police reforms in a bid to make the police service professional, accountable and respectful of human rights.

For decades, the police have been accused of systemic corruption, lack of professionalism, tribalism, cronyism, impunity, human rights violations such as unlawful killings and torture, and lack of independence from the Executive.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was the 2007 post-election violence when according to the Philip Waki Report, police were responsible for 400 of the 1,133 deaths.

Justice Waki, along with Justice Philip Ransley, who led the Taskforce on Police Reforms made in-depth findings on the eroded faith of Kenyans in the police force, political and executive control of the police, impunity, impartiality and gaps in police welfare.

They recommended that the Inspector General of Police (IG) must be functionally and financially independent of the executive; the creation of a civilian body to investigate police excesses; and creation of a commission to deal with police human resource issues such as professional development, discipline, transfers, promotions, wellbeing and mental health. These recommendations culminated in the formation of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) and the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) to deal with civilian oversight and human resource of the police respectively. 

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Last week, the BBI Steering Committee surprised many when it recommended the abolition of the NPSC without clear justification or rationale.

In its place, the committee proposed a creature called the Kenya Security Council (KSC) to oversee policy and command functions of the National Police Service in collaboration with the IG.

The committee envisions a KSC chaired by the CS in charge of Internal Security, with Principal Secretary, the IG and two senior police officers appointed by the President as members. Basically, the membership is made up of people who serve at the pleasure of the president, thereby raising legitimate questions regarding executive and political control of the police who, as a matter of law, are supposed to serve all Kenyans impartially.

For argument sake, let us assume that the committee has a problem with the performance of the NPCS over the years. Even if the task force had a problem with the way it carried out the famous police vetting, they should have outlined why they think they have underperformed and offered solutions or recommendations on how the constitutional commission should be improved.

What is happening is tantamount to throwing the baby with the bathwater. My gut feeling is we are eliminating something principally good, when trying to get rid of feelings of lacklustre performance.

Policing is a noble profession that should be respected and supported. Members of the NPS, therefore, deserve human resource support with regards to welfare, wellbeing, mental health, career progression, discipline and transfers. These functions are the exclusive constitutional province of the NSPC and do not seem to be explicitly catered for by the recommendations.

Appraisal framework

Curiously, the BBI task force report recommends the abolition of the NPSC, and then, as if unaware of its own recommendation goes ahead to allocate it more functions such as in pages 137 and 138 where it recommends the NPSC to establish a fund to identify and reward excellent officers; ensure a digitalised and transparent periodic appraisal framework; establish internal courses and have a transparent process of eligibility and admission to the courses; establish credible exams whose results reflect the true performance of candidates and a digital register of citizens’ complaints whose contents are used in determining promotion and transfers.

Which begs the question: Does the BBI recommend abolition of NPSC or not?

My advice to the standing committee is to interrogate the structures, institutions and intentions of their creation. Furthermore, they should interrogate why certain offices are not performing as they should and come up with plausible solutions. Answers may be found in the calibre of leadership selected, availability of resources or cooperation by other state bodies.


Mr Kiprono is a constitutional and human rights lawyer. [email protected]

Police Brutality BBI Cabinet Post election violence BBI Steering Committee IPOA
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