By Humphrey Young, PhD
A country’s police service can be either a protector or a predator of 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 policy, and the participation of members of the public in the delivery of public services has to time and again be evident.
Quality service in my view is a series of intangible activities designed in conformance to the requirements, specifications, and satisfaction of the customer. Policing reforms should be a proactive initiative aimed at improving the efficiency and effectiveness of police service delivery.
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The community relationship is highly complex and is influenced by performance measurement, organizational structure and governance. The impact that the police have on local crime is affected by the ability to respond to the needs of the members of the public, the resources available, and the partnership between the police and the community.
However, too often the police are oriented towards functions that divert their efforts away from crime fighting and social order thus the continuous call by all actors for intensive and extensive meaningful police reforms as the country labours to improve the welfare of police officers.
With the new Constitution promulgated on 27th August, 2010, Kenyans legitimately anticipated the robust security framework articulated under the law would guarantee their safety and security. These were necessitated by various factors such as the poor performance of the police, changes in threats in the operating environment and the changes in the preferences and needs of the members of the public among others.
Police reforms in Kenya that began in 2003 represented a paradigm shift towards a people-centred police through community policing. This is why the Kenya Police Force (KPF) was renamed the Kenya Police Service (KPS) and the Administration Police (AP) into Administration Police Service (APS). Other similar changes included the renaming of the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) into the Directorate of Criminal Investigation (DCI).
These were necessary changes that were anticipated to reverse decades of human rights abuse, impunity, and brutality that were acceptable police culture. The reforms thus introduced new codes of conduct to the criminal justice system, shifting the focus from reactive to proactive policing and evidence-based crime investigations by the provision of better equipment and technical assistance to the criminal justice system.
These reforms have however faced challenges like the inadequacy of resources for long-term sustainability in terms of human capital development, finances and lack of technical support. Apart from improving operational efficiency, challenges remain in the area of facilitating police operations.
Police reforms therefore as envisaged by the people of Kenya following the appointment of the Maraga led taskforce should also seek to remodel the current National Police Service into a valuable and responsive organization. The reform initiative should be geared towards exerting pressure for accountability while keeping in mind the changing needs of the public.
The reforms should emphasize the alteration of the governing tenets of our domestic security agencies and the adoption of a new face of a modern police service with the latest equipment and technology. There should also be a total reorganization of the command structure, decentralization of decision-making organs, and delegation of authority.
Further, the reforms should enhance a shift from reactive crime response to crime prevention while embracing a partnership between the police and the public. The reforms should also involve the creation and implementation of strategic measures that will ensure the police service that meets the expectation of the members of the public guided by the best professionalism ideals.
Humphrey Young, PhD, HSC, is a senior Kenya Prisons Service officer and Public Policy and Development Expert