Effective police reforms should ensure efficiency

Monday, January 30th, 2023 00:05 | By
Police officers at a past drill. PHOTO/(@National Police Service)/Twitter
Police officers at a past drill. PHOTO/(@National Police Service)/Twitter

A country’s police service can be either a protector or a predator to the society. Regardless of their personal beliefs, individual police officers are sworn to uphold the law and their duty is just if the laws are aligned with the natural rights of man, and unjust if the laws infringe on these rights. The responsibility of a State to its citizens for public service delivery represents a central part of the democratic polity.

Participation of members of the public in the delivery of public services has to time and again be evident. Frontline workers, police officers in this case, are expected to provide quality services to the public.

Quality service in my view is a series of intangible activities designed in conformance to requirements, specifications and satisfaction of the customer. Policing reforms should be a proactive initiative aimed at improving efficiency and effectiveness of police service delivery. Focus is on attentiveness and promptness in dealing with the public, who are usually frustrated if they cannot get someone to help.

The process of delivering an effective service is a key factor for police managers because much of the effectiveness of the police depends on the specific activities they undertake in the community. The community relationship is highly complex and is influenced by performance measurement, organisational structure and governance.

The impact that the police have on local crime is affected by the ability to respond to the needs of the public, available resources and partnership between the police and the community.   However, too often the police as it is now are oriented towards functions that divert their efforts away from crime fighting and social order, thus the continuous call by all actors for an intensive and extensive meaningful police reform as the country labours to improve the welfare of the officers.

With the new Constitution promulgated on August 27, 2010, Kenyans legitimately anticipated the robust security framework articulated under the law would guarantee their security.

These were necessitated by various factors such as poor performance of the police, changes in threats in the operating environment and changes in preferences and needs of the public among others. Police reforms that began in 2003 represented a paradigm shift towards people centred police through community policing.

Transforming the Kenya Police Force into Kenya Police Service and the Administration Police into Administration Police Service , the Criminal Investigation Department into Directorate of Criminal Investigation  and to the creation of the umbrella body the National Police Service, under the command of the Inspector General  of Police was an important aspect of reforms that was anticipated to reverse decades of police condescending culture of human rights abuse, impunity and brutality into an acceptable police culture that is more transparent, responsive and proactive.

The reforms programme thus introduced new codes of conduct to the criminal justice system, the shifting of focus from reactive to proactive policing, evidenced based crime reporting procedures, providing better equipment and technical assistance to the criminal justice system among others to improve service delivery.

 Reform process has faced the challenges of inadequate resources for long term sustainability in terms of human capital development, financial prowess and technical support that has never resonated well with the vision and mission of the police service.

The vast investments in the reform process by the stakeholders has not improved on the police performance apart from the improving the operational efficiency.

Police reforms, therefore as is envisaged by the people of Kenya following the appointment of Justice Maraga-led taskforce should also seek to remodel the current National Police Service into a valuable and responsive organisation to the desires of the public. Reform initiative should be geared towards exerting pressure for accountability on the part of government.

— Humphrey Ogola is a senior Kenya Prisons Service officer and Public Policy and Development Expert

More on Opinion