Will Ruto crack whip to end infighting among the police?

 Inspector General of Police Japhet Koome with the National Police Service Commission Chairman Eliud Kinuthia. [File, Standard]

Despite a warning by Interior CS Kithure Kindiki to the Inspector General of Police and the National Police Service Commission chairman that they risk being fired over incessant fights, the two police bosses have turned a deaf ear to their boss' advice.

So serious is the infighting that 51 civilians who were interviewed and hired by the Eliud Kinuthia-led NPSC were on Tuesday locked out of their offices.

The employees were reporting to their new work station for the first time after their appointment.

Last Thursday, Kinuthia issued a press statement following the standoff.

He also spoke to The Sunday Standard on phone, accusing the IG of issuing orders to police officers manning gates at Jogoo House not to allow the new staff to access their offices.

This is despite the employees having been interviewed, vetted and issued with appointment letters.

In his statement, Kinuthia maintained that the workers will continue with their induction before being deployed to their new work stations.

The orders issued to the officers manning the gates at Jogoo House not to allow any of the new staff in are yet to be lifted.

Some of the employees, who had quit their jobs in private sector to join government are now finding themselves in a difficult position as the two police honchos tussle.

The Sunday Standard reached out to the Inspector General of Police on this latest standoff.

In a telephone interview the IG said he had travelled to the North rift where his officers are engaged in an operation.

He was categorical that he was not going to respond to claims made by the National Police Service Commission chairman. 

“Boardroom matters are like bedroom matters. You don’t go discussing such issues in public," Koome told The Sunday Standard.

“My priority right now is to see all Kenyans and their property safe... not who holds what opinion," he said.

He, however, promised to address other issues at an interview when he resumes office next week.

The NPSC chairman in a statement issued on Thursday claimed that the IG and his deputies were sabotaging the operations of the commission by failing to attend to crucial commission meetings.

In an earlier interview, Kinuthia told The Standard that the IG and his deputies had skipped nearly all the meetings called by the commission, including the last meeting that was to discuss the recruitment of the 51 civilians who were to be seconded to the National Police Service.

His commission, he said, went ahead to conduct interviews for different positions that include finance officers, legal officers and supply chain officers before the IG last Tuesday issued an order stopping the employees from accessing their offices.

The impasse on the new employees is the latest in a maze of standoffs between the police bosses that are yet to be resolved.

And as the infighting continues, The Sunday Standard has learnt of high level behind the scenes push to have the president crack the whip and end the incessant fights at the heart of police operations.

Sources familiar with the issues told The Sunday Standard in confidence that some people close to the president want the head of state to rein in the NPSC chair and the IG in line with the recommendations of the Justice David Maraga-led commission of inquiry.

In its final final report presented to the president, the task force criticised the police commission and stated that it had failed to deliver in their human resource docket as stipulated in the constitution, and that their functions had been usurped by the police commanders.

The task force, among other things, recommended a negotiated exit of the current commission.

“Regrettably, however, the NPSC leadership has acquiesced to the continued usurpation of its functions by the NPS leadership, thereby exacerbating the vices that it was established to redress," the report said in part.

Inspector General of Police Japheth Koome with National Police Service Commission Chairman Eliud Kinuthia during the Third Remuneration Review Cycle 2021/2022-2024/2025 at the Commission's office in Nairobi on August 23, 2023. [Boniface Okendo, Standard]

“It has also generally been unable to develop policies and institute measures that would enable it to perform its constitutional and statutory obligations. The task force has been left with no option but to recommend that government considers a negotiated exit, or any other legally recognised modality, for the current commissioners of NPSC."

President William Ruto while receiving the report at State House Nairobi said the recommendation by the task force would be implemented as part of the government reform agenda of security docket.

Now, those close to the president have been pushing for the implementation of the task force's findings to end the infighting.

Past efforts by top government officials, among them Kindiki, to bring peace have failed.

Last July, Kithure told a parliamentary committee that he held talks with Koome and Kinuthia and agreed that the two institutions would solve their issues internally.

Kindiki told MPs Koome and Kinuthia risked being cited for breach of the Constitution by seeking to resolve a matter beyond their reach by playing to the public gallery.

Kindiki said that despite the difference between the two offices on interpretation of their mandates, the duo ought to handle issues pragmatically.

“Public display of discordance of institution crucial for security is a violation of Chapter 6 of the Constitution, undermines the rule of law and high level of irresponsibility,” the CS told the MPs.

Koome and Kinuthia had at the time differed on who had the mandate to promote police officers.

A day after the Maraga commission indicted NPSC, the NPSC chair called a meeting at their at Skypark office, Westland’s.

This was the first time that the IG was meeting in person with Kinuthia since the wrangles on promotion of 500 senior police officer erupted.

The IG announced the promotions of the senior police officers but the police employer disowned the promotions.

 The meeting was called off at the last minute after uniformed commissioners indicated that they were unavailable to attend.

At the time, Kinuthia insisted that the available promotions in the police ranks must be advertised and officers interviewed for the positions.

 Koome on the other hand insisted that the commission must ratify the promotion list forwarded to his office without changes.

Sources at the meeting said the hardline position taken by the two leaders created a standoff.

In Parliament, Kindiki said the public spat between the two institutions was as a result of conflicting interpretation of the Constitution, the National Police Service Act, and the National Police Commission Act.

The CS said leaders of the two institutions risk being kicked out of office for violation of sections of the Constitution.

Said Kindiki: “That conduct by those two institutions and their top officials amounts to a violations of Chapter 6 of the Constitution on integrity and leadership.”  

A day before he appeared in Parliament, Kindiki who spoke at an event in Murang’a appeared to have thrown his weight behind Koome.

The CS who spoke at Pefa Church in Kamahuha village, Maragua, said the police promotion was a way of appreciating police officers who had suffered while protecting the interests of the public.

But hours after the announcement, Kinuthia issued a warning that the police employer had not ratified the promotions.

Kinuthia, in an earlier interview with The Standard on phone said:” The purported promotions are null and void “  

The commission further addressed the issue in a press statement signed by Peter Leley, the NPSC CEO.

Kinuthia warned that the officers who had been issued with promotion letters without the input of the employer risked disciplinary action.