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Call for police reforms to address security challenges

The National Police Service (NPS) and the Kenya Prisons Service (KPS) are in desperate need of reforms in the face of serious continuing security challenges in the country.

A cross section of residents in Kwale told a task-force formed to oversee reforms at the NPS and KPS that the security personnel lack the motivation to deal with local security issues.

The task-force led by Retired Chief Justice David Maraga is mandated to identify the constraints on effective service delivery by the NPS and KPS. It was appointed by President William Ruto on December 22, 2022.

A section of the task-force members led by Captain (Rtd) Dr. Simiyu Werunga heard that salaries for the security officers are low forcing many of them to engage in corrupt practices just to scrape by.

Those who spoke also called on politicians to desist from interfering in the recruitment processes in the NPS and KPS noting that such a move retards professionalism.

They said the salary and allowances for the police and prison officers should be commensurate with the vital functions they are performing as chief security providers.

Juma Omar, a local elder said salary increase and more allowances should be an integral part of the efforts to address endemic corruption in the security sector. “The security officers often engage in bribery and extortion as a way of making some money on the side because they feel they are underpaid,” he said.

Omar said Kenyans hope that salary increment and other remunerations will go a long way to improve the quality of life of the security officers.

Madi Garashi who is a member of a local community policing initiative underscored the need by the government to weed out all miscreants in the NPS in a bid to restore its image and reputation.

She also said professionalism in the police service has become a challenge noting that it’s time to have a new curriculum to enhance police accountability and transparency. “We need a professional police service that is responsive to the needs of the people,” she said.

Garashi said most people were not feeling adequately protected by police officers because their presence in the communities as far as crime prevention is concerned was very weak.

Mohamed Mwajirani, a village elder from Matuga sub county said efforts to reform the police and prison officers should focus on recruitment, training, working practices, morale and structural issues.

“Police service needs overhaul to ensure that police officers are specifically trained to deal with policing in communities,” he said.

Mwajirani noted that waves of criminal activities across the country were a clear sign that the police needed urgent reforms to effectively police the communities.  He also said negotiated solutions for non-serious offences should be recognized and encouraged at the community level instead of allowing most police cases proceeding to prosecution in courts.

Salim Bogo, a local Nyumba Kumi chairman, said the police service must move from its current form to a professional, efficient and robust institution that was responsive to the needs in communities.

James Wanyama, a human rights activist, welcomed efforts to reform the security sector saying it seeks to promote accountability, oversight and integrity of the NPS and KPS.

Wanyama said the government should seek to adopt wide ranging reforms to put an end to police violence, brutality, forceful disappearance and extrajudicial killings. “Reforming the security sector will strengthen accountability, effectiveness and respect for human rights and the rule of law,” he said.

Ali Hassan, Kwale County Prisons Commander told the task-force members that the local prison facilities were often overcrowded with remandees who outnumber the inmates thus putting strain on prison facilities.

“As a country, we should be pushing for the adoption of community service orders and probation orders as alternative sentences for petty offenders as a way of decongesting our jails,” said Hassan.

He said, “currently, we have 121 inmates and 463 remandees most of them petty offenders at the Kwale GK prison.”

On his part Cpt. Werunga a security expert has assured Kenyans that the recommendations the task-force will present to the President would be acted upon as soon as it’s practically applicable.

“I want to assure Kenyans that ours will not be a report that sits on shelves and ends up collecting dust like many others before,” said Werunga adding that the recommendations would go a long way in strengthening public trust while reducing crime.

By Hussein Abdullahi and Mwanasiti Salim

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