Q&A: IPOA chairperson

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The Nairobi Law Monthly’s David Wanjala interviewed Macharia Njeru, chairperson, Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA)

Question: What is ailing the National Police Service and by extension Kenya’s internal security?

Answer: To start with, there have been serious structural issues in the National Police Service particularly relating to command and control. Apart from the Inspector General (IG) and the two deputies, there is no clarity on who is in control at other levels particularly at the county level. That has had a very negative impact in terms of the police Services seeming to act in parallel to each other. 

The Kenya Police, the Administration Police and the Criminal Investigations Department all seem to be doing their own thing as opposed to working in harmony, contributing hugely to ineffectiveness on the part of the National Police Service in dealing with matters of insecurity.

Inability to provide proper management of the National Police Service has also caused significant inefficiencies within the Service. The lack of efficient management of the Service itself as a corporate body capable of delivering on its mandate, which is primarily to maintain law and order is a big stumbling block. This management problem starts from the top police leadership. 

The National Police Service ought to change with time. The world, including challenges of crime has changed. The police have not kept up with this pace. They continue to do things the way they did them many years back, addressing today’s challenges with outdated solutions. That has contributed to the problems in the National Police Service today.

Optimal use of the available budgetary and human resources continues to be a challenge. 

Unlike previous regimes, the current Government has significantly improved resource allocation to the police. The police are unable to efficiently utilize the budgetary resources that are allocated to them. The police must also utilize the available human capital in terms of making sure that they enhance the training capacity for new recruits, retrain current officers and ensure a culture change in the service. The culture of the Kenya Police reputed for being oppressive and even archaic has, for instance, been sustained rather than transformed into a progressive one.

Another major problem is the deployment strategy of the police. The police are not deployed in the very critical areas of their mandate, which is beat and patrol. You can hardly see police officers enforcing security in the communities. Focus is given on deploying police on none core police duties. They provide guard services to buildings, VIPs, parastatals, cash in transit and engage in desk duties. The deployment strategy focusing on non-core police duties leaves the communities exposed without security.

There is also the inability to act on intelligence provided. There is lack of ability by the police to take seriously the intelligence that is provided to them, process and analyse it and be able to apply it to prevent the commission of crimes.

 

How has the new structural organization of the National Police Service as set out by the new Constitution affected that institution?

The new organizational structure of National Police Service is good. It is the people who have been entrusted with the responsibility to lead who have not been effective in terms of implementing that change arising from the operational independence they have in terms of command. 

The IG is the operational commander, the leader of the National Police Service and should be the one to implement the change and take forward the reforms. The reforms in the National Police Service have to be undertaken by the police themselves, all other policing institutions’ role being to compliment reform efforts. As it is, the leaders have not been able to effect reforms. Change in the leadership of the Service is therefore long overdue. Even if we change these leaders ten times in a year, so be it until we get it right.

What should be done to fix the problems bedeviling National Police Service and by extension, the national security?

We hope that we will get a credible, competent Inspector General. At the end of the day, regardless of what legislation we have, it all boils down to the people, the human capital. It is the people who make an institution and it starts with the leadership. 

It is critically important that we have the right Inspector General. We need somebody who is a change manager. It would be desirable to have somebody who is not a member of the Kenya Police or Administration Police or from the Criminal Investigations Department. The IG, is supposed to equate a CEO. The actual commanders should be the Deputy Inspector General in charge of the Kenya Police Service and the Deputy Inspector General in charge of the Administration Police Service. Picking one from either side will bring unnecessary friction. As we speak, there’s a big rivalry between the two Services.

What you need is somebody with the skill to manage the resources of the National Police Service to ensure that they are distributed fairly and efficiently, that the organizational structure of the National Police Service is able to speak to their strategic plan, somebody who can be able to command respect of the men and women in uniform. We need someone with a visionary corporate mind, but with security knowledge and experience to turn around this institution, infuse professionalism, drive in culture change and bring in reforms.

 

What is your take on the past wrangles pitting the Inspector General (IG) against National Police Service Commission (NPSC) regarding powers to run the Service on a day-to-day basis?

Let me put it this way, it would be a serious mistake not to give the IG and his or her people the power to deal with the men and women that they manage. It is not tenable. You cannot say that the Inspector General cannot have transfer and disciplinary powers. 

It is totally wrong to expect that disciplining and transferring the police should be undertaken by the NPSC. We are not talking about individuals, not the IG or the chair of the Commission; it is about what is workable for a disciplined Service.

The work of the NPSC should be limited to coming up with policies and processes of recruiting, transferring and disciplining and the regulations just like any other human resource entity. The IG should then be the one to implement. 

NPSC’s role would be to check whether there’s compliance and due regard being given to the regulations, policies and processes. 

The commission should be a kind of a quality assurance institution to ensure compliance as part of the checks and balances. The NPSC should also play the role of an appellate body. When officers are dissatisfied with action taken by the IG, they should have an appeal avenue in the commission. 

To me, this is a problem that has been created by lack of understanding by the players in the institutions of what their respective roles are. It should have been easy to sit down and have a critical analysis of what should be done and apply it in a practical manner.

 

What could have gone wrong in the society to the extent that the police now become the target of criminals in the manner it happened in Baragoi, Kapedo and many other parts of the country?

As I have indicated above; intelligence, lack of proper deployment structure and breakdown of the organizational structure have all led to where we are. But in addition, the police have also not done a good job in terms of enhancing the public confidence and creating a good relationship between themselves and the communities in which they serve.

The police need to bridge this gap between themselves and members of the public. Today, the public will ordinarily shy away from giving information to the police because they do not know what the police will do with that information that could lead to them being targeted. The inaction by the police on information given by the public and the situation where those who give information end up being suspects of the crime also contributes to widening the gap.

A significant number of the police have also become criminals where rather than maintaining law and order; they use their privileges including the guns and uniforms to commit crime. 

All these have contributed to lack of respect for the police and could have had an impact. It is critically important that the police do a lot of work in terms of building their image and bringing back that confidence.

Having said that, there’s no excuse at all for attacking a police officer. It is the biggest commission of crime I would think of because that is a recipe for chaos, the easiest way of driving a country down. 

Whatever the circumstances it is something that as a democratic country we should never allow if we have to protect the dignity of the country. Let us deal with the critical issues of driving reforms within the National Police Service but let us not provide any rationale at all for having members of the National Police Service attacked.

 

Has the National Police Service failed to the extent that we now have to delegate internal security duties to the Kenya Defence Forces as is increasingly being seen?  

Precisely. In all internal matters under normal circumstances the police should be able to have capacity to deal with it. The Kenya Police have the general duty officers, but they also have the specialized units for instance the General Service Unit (GSU). The Administration Police have the Rapid Deployment Unit (RDU). There’s the Anti-Stock Theft Unit. These units are paramilitary. If they are properly organized, their training continuously enhanced, well-motivated and proper leadership provided, they should be able to deal with internal security. It is a failure by the police leadership. 

The police need to reexamine themselves. They should be able to deal with internal security issues and only on very exceptional circumstances should the military be deployed. They need to up their game to be equal to the task for which they have been set up.

 

IPOA successfully petitioned in court against the recently concluded national police recruitment resulting in its nullification; what needs to be done to ensure successful recruitment?

I will be guarded in my comment on this one because the matter is still in court. But our position remains the same; the recruitment that was done was not professional and was corrupt. That’s why we went to court. We’ve insisted on regulations, guidelines being put in place. Fortunately, the NPSC is at the tail end of passing those regulations. Once they are put in place, they should just go back and do the recruitment in accordance with those regulations.

What we will not allow as IPOA is recruitment marred by corruption. We will have no apologies to anybody when we do that because we are doing it in the interest of the country.

 

What are your final views?

We hope that there will be learning from the mistakes that have already happened. We have had serious issues arising from the Eastleigh sanitization exercise, Westgate, Mpeketoni, Kapedo and Mandera attacks. This should be a learning process for everybody and particularly the National Police Service. These gaps and the problems in the National Police Service can be solved if there is a will by all the players.

The purge of leadership at the National Police Service should go beyond just the IG and affect his two deputies. They have also been part of the problem. That is our position as IPOA.

On the security legislation being changed currently, we have gone through them as IPOA and found many provisions that are good and that make sense. There are however concern areas that need to be addressed. We should pass good laws that will enhance security by passing what is good and revising what is not tenable.

Lastly, my personal view (not that of IPOA) is that the three positions of the IG and the two deputies should go to the best persons in terms of merit and should not necessarily be gender related. 

 

The requirement of gender parity should be on the entire Service and not pegged on positions. Whoever merits the position regardless of whether it is a man or woman should be given the opportunity. If we are able to get three women who can do the job, so be it. If we can get three men who can do the job, so be it. If we can get a mix so be it. But let it be the best persons.

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