A Task Force on police reforms was inaugurated on Monday by Internal Security Minister George Saitoti, barely days after it was constituted by President Mwai Kibaki vide a gazette notice.
The members of the task force, led by retired judge Philip Ransley, are drawn from a cross section of the society. This includes the clergy, the legal fraternity, a former policeman and the chairperson of the National Commission on Human Rights, among others.
Sadly, the immediate reaction from some otherwise well informed personalities has been to pour scorn at the establishment of the Task Force.
US Ambassador Michael Ranneberger for instance, was of the opinion that the task force was futile arguing that police reforms have been outlined in the Waki report.
I write this article with a copy of the Waki report on my desk. Its specific recommendations for the police state include among others to;
a) Involve a complete audit of the current police management, structures, policies and procedures
b) Include extensive consultations locally and internationally
c) Undertake extensive and comprehensive public consultations
Now, the mandate of the Task Force according to the gazette notice dated May 8, is mainly to study Agenda Four, the Kriegler, Waki and other related reports and recommend a comprehensive reform of the police force.
In its work, the Ransley team is clearly to be guided by the Waki recommendations which were categorical that extensive local and international consultations were to be undertaken.
It is important for us all to bear in mind that the Waki and Kriegler Commissions did not audit the structures of the police department. Rather, they looked at the performance of the ‘boys in blue’ and at a glance noticed a need for a proper audit and subsequent reforms.
There is therefore no better way to conduct the reforms without forming a specific team that will structure the reforms.
What the critics should be focusing on however, is whether the resultant recommendations wil have any legal mandate.
What the President and Prime Minister should have done, while constituting this team, is to sponsor an amendment to the existing rules to entrench the reforms in law. Here, recommendations of the Ransley Task Force would have to be implemented.
This is the beauty of entrenching the Interim Independent Electoral Commission and the Independent Boundaries Commission in the Constitution.
While I support the formation of this team – and I have no “wife batterer” allegations against any of its members – I urge the Internal Security Minister to immediately sponsor amendments to the current laws that govern the operations of police to give legal backing to the recommendations of the Task Force.
This could be included in the Miscellaneous Amendment Bill 2009, which is due in Parliament.