OPINIONPeople Daily

Police reforms must go well beyond new uniform

The sweeping police reforms announced yesterday by the President target enhancing the long overdue operational efficacy and improved service delivery to Kenyans by the National Police Service. 

For decades now, police service has failed to inspires public confidence and increasingly police self-confidence. No public institution suffers lower esteem and battered image like the police. 

A survey by World Internal Security and Police Index not long ago on four domains— capacity, process and outcomes—may have caused uproar with what was seen as uncorroborated testimonials when they ranked Kenya police virtually bottom of the pile. But local surveys have not portrayed the police in any better light.

Ten years after Philip Ranslay first released his report on police reforms following the 2008 post-election violence, yesterday’s constituted a refreshing raft of reforms which emerge as serious blueprint towards reforming the service to be effective, responsive and accountable.

Addressing top police cadre, just a day after a new pay structure was released (it elicited some apprehension though over the amount involved), President Uhuru Kenyatta announced further improved material circumstances and an overall better work environment for officers with the hope being they will inspire hope, reignite vigour and re-purpose police ethos.

Police lethargy and disillusionment have frequently been blamed for recklessness and insatiable inclination for corruption. Incentive matters; promotion, transparent recruitment, remuneration and career progression are set to be streamlined to end opaqueness and below the table deals.

The integration will see the role of Administration Police scaled down from what was emerging as combined with that of their regular colleagues, with shift to border patrol and security of government   facilities. When the President decrees that graft be made painfully expensive, it makes little sense if police and graft remain synonyms.

Police colleges which have had their roles more pointedly defined cannot continue being schools which release shoals of piranhas into society. The area of graft is one where approach must be resolute to cohere with the President’s ongoing assault on corruption.    

The raft of changes envisage a police service that is better facilitated, reasonably motivated and adequately prepared for the job. With allocation from Treasury closing on Sh100 billion from Sh54 billion just six years ago and with a lopsided ratio of officers to the population getting addressed, hope is not misplaced.   

Besides facilitation, the catalogue of reforms must also target re-orienting, refocusing and re-aligning police operational requirements with the Constitution, specifically the Bill of Rights.

Reports of police brutality are suffocating. Law and order are sacrosanct but images of police officers overzealously beating up suspects must stop. Police are expected to be more constrained, and judicious.

An outlook cut to intimidate served a different era so they must humanise their demeanour; it will not make them less effective now that a police officer is set to be a civilians neighbour.     

The new changes will see command confusion addressed, with the very top brass—Deputy Inspector Generals—given unambiguous roles.

The clatter which had a multi-layer command structure at the regions with dire consequences to chain of command goes will now have clearly demarcated roles.  But when all is said and done, it will not be the new uniform that defines the new police service, but the conviction with which they execute their mandate! [email protected]

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