7 December 2012

Kenya: Community Policing Will Boost Security

The efforts by the police to curb the rising incidents of insecurity and crime in the country have failed because they lack an effective community policing strategy.

The new inspector general has his work well cut out. Besides building a professional, representative, responsive and accountable police service, the new leadership must put in place structures and systems to support community policing.

The police force is seriously under- staffed and one way of improving its effectiveness is to create working relationship with the community.

The recent incidents of insecurity in Garissa, Tana River, Baragoi and Eastleigh, which have caught everyone unawares, point to the need for a new system of training and policing that would prevent rather than react to crime.

Apart from limited capacity in numbers, our police force is also facing financial and logistical constraints that impede its ability to effectively deliver services.

The government has not been able to allocate police force sufficient resources commensurate to the problems and challenges it is expected to handle.

The current police to population ratio of 1:1500 is far below the UN recommended ratio of 1:450. The number of police available to protect civilians is reduced further because of the skewed assignment to guard VIPs. Also a significant number of police officers are assigned to duty that does not have direct provision of public security such as guarding banks.

A recent report by South Consulting titled Kenya Election Preparedness revealed that the confidence of the Kenyan public in the police service is low compared to the judiciary.

With the rise of militia groups like Al-Shabab within the country boarders even as the military engages in Operation Linda Nchi in Somalia, many Kenyans feel unsafe and would want the government to prioritize internal security.

Another shocking revelation in the report is that more than half of the population associate the police and political leaders with militia groups. How then will the public work with a police service if they cannot be trusted with sensitive information?

The public sense of safety has continued to decline as the elections approach. Experience suggests that such situation lead to the formation of vigilante groups. All too frequently the result is more conflict, disorder and violence.

To ensure that incidents of insecurity and crime threatening our country are effectively addressed, ongoing efforts to reform police and improve their service delivery must include a framework for community policing.

The program will ensure that police and community work together to address crime, insecurity and other community concerns. Good working relationship between the public and the police would also enhance public confidence in the police service.

On one hand, Kenyans must be made to appreciate the need for partnering with the police and sharing information. We should all work with the reforming police service to end terrorism, insecurity and crime.

But for that to happen, police must change their attitude and philosophy about policing. They must know that police will never be truly effective without cooperation with the public.

No doubt, a police service supported by the community can have a far-reaching impact in addressing complex insecurity and crime in Kenya.

Raphael Obonyo is the external advisor, United Nations Habitat's Youth Advisory Board raphojuma@hotmail.com

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