NAIROBI, August 20 – It is now four years since the launch of the much-publicised Community Policing Project, which aimed to enhance partnership between the police and the public in fighting crime.
Today, the Kenya Police is claiming major achievements in the project, whose launch on April 27, 2004 marked the opening of a new chapter in the relationship between the police and the public.
In our quest to take stock of the initiative’s progress Capital News spoke to the Police Spokesman Erick Kiraithe.
“We have made numerous achievements,” he started off. “The police are now friendlier and more responsive than before. The public now have confidence in us and have really become supportive.”
Q: When you say the police are now friendlier, what precisely do you mean?
A: The approach of dealing with our customers (the public) has really changed. There are very minimal cases of people claiming to have been harassed at police stations when reporting or inquiring about an issue.
Q: And this is something that used to happen before?
A: Yes, indeed there were numerous complaints from the public, particularly when reporting matters at police stations. Today, things have changed; our officers have been sensitised on how to respond to issues without provoking the public and Kenyans are really happy about this.
Q: To what extent has this contributed to the responsiveness of the police?
A: Unlike before, Kenyans are now able to contact the police almost immediately and, sometimes even before a crime is committed. Our officers are therefore able to respond with speed.
Q: Between the police and the public, who have improved the most as far as community policing is concerned?
A: Both of them have really improved but a lot is desired from the public. There are those who still collude with criminals or fail to report crimes. For instance, the investigations on terror suspect Fazul Abdullah Mohammed has been hampered by lack of cooperation from the public; we are not getting the assistance we need in the search for the wanted fugitive.
Q: The police have also been accused of colluding with the suspect. Are they not to blame as well?
A: We conducted investigations and established that the reports about the police harbouring the fugitive were baseless and malicious. They were not credible at all.
Q: Are those the only achievements the police have made?
A: It is a long list, but those are the main ones which have also contributed to the decline in crime rates in the country.
Q: What statistics are we talking about here?
A: We had 13 percent decline in crime rates in 2007, for example, which is very impressive.
I must also note that, as a result of community policing, we have doubled the recruitment rate of police officers annually.
We aim at augmenting the work of the police especially at this time when the ratio of the police to the population stands at a low level of one officer for every 1,150 Kenyans. This is far below the level recommended by the United Nations of 1 to 450. Part of the reform process therefore, involves increasing the number of police officers to improve on this ratio
Q: What are some of the hurdles the department underwent in meeting its target?
A: We had a problem of inadequate funds. The funds released were not enough to meet all the targets but we are still moving on. There is no end in accomplishing the project because we are determined to achieve more than we have done.
A retired police officer interviewed by Capital News concurs that things have really changed at the law-enforcing agency.
“Look at the Reporting Desk at police stations of today, people no longer fear to go to police stations. Police officers are friendlier and re-trained to avoid asking you those common questions of ‘unaitwa nani na unataka nini hapa’,” he avers.
A tour of various police stations in Nairobi established that besides the reporting desk, there was a neatly dressed table with a clearly labeled tag of ‘Customer Care’.
Whoever, is not satisfied with services rendered at the reporting desk is supposed to talk to the customer care representative for further direction.
“And this is part of the measures aimed at transforming the department,” Kiraithe said.
A cross section of Kenyans interviewed expressed diverse views on the implementation of the Community Policing Project.
While some felt there has been a difference, there are those who said the police department was far from achieving its target.
Mark Mwaniki, a businessman in Nairobi says nothing, or very little, has changed in the police department.
He cites corruption as one of the major hurdles facing the police.
“They (police) still ask for bribes. They still harass motorists and demand money from them, particularly matatu operators,” he complained.
Corruption index reports released by Transparency international for the last seven years place the police at the top position, making it the most crooked government institution in the country.
Police Commissioner Major General Mohammed Hussein Ali has on numerous occasions dismissed the report as ‘baseless’ maintaining that his department is not as corrupt as perceived in the statistics.