President Uhuru Kenyatta’s 30-day ultimatum to top police officers to plan a strategy of phasing out the Administration Police unit, in line with the Constitution, is spot on. In fact, it should have happened with implementation of devolution or latest at the same time the Provincial Administration was being aligned to the constitutional provisions.
It is curious that the 60,000-strong police unit was retained. The 60-year-old unit, which was predecessor to Tribal Police, has continually run into headwinds, especially as it appeared to compete with and duplicate the work of regular police.
It had grown in both stature and political significance, which ceased with the advent of devolution, and the sibling rivalry with regular police did little to cast it in good light. Indeed, the perception by regular police that AP is an inferior force prompted former commandant Kinuthia Mbugua (now State House comptroller) to press for its being kitted as if it were a parallel force.
Further, the parallel chain of command amounted to duplication, with attendant cost of equipment, arms, houses and other related financial and logistical implications. The upshot was that the unit remained in place even as no one could explain its relevance vis-à-vis the regular police.
True, they provide security for government installations and buildings as well as augment security for VIPs but this can be done just as well if they were provided by regular police, where the AP will be absorbed into. To press this point home, even their training is oriented to the suppression of public disorder and or insurrection. Now, the General Service Unit, a paramilitary outfit trained specifically to handle trouble of any kind, swiftly and effectively provides just such duties.
It is common knowledge the AP have no holding cells of their own, so, any offenders they arrest are referred to regular police for booking, detention and prosecution. That does not make much sense!
Of course, the move to absorb them into the regular police also means their rank and file may have to be retrained so as to re-orient and align them with the modus operandi of the regular police.
That is generally because their general training is aimed at ensuring they can respond effectively and swiftly to public disturbances as well as security operations of various kinds. The Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU) of the AP is especially trained with focus on such duties. It is a specialised outfit that could fit in well with the Special Crimes Prevention Unit of the regular police, for instance.
Of course, the absorption of the AP into the regular service will boost the sheer numbers, with the likely result that the level of policing will get a boost, translating into a more favourable ratio of police officers to civilians.