Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Who's for for devolved police?

I think, and I am very, very sure that Isaac Ruto will give this proposal his customary full-throated support, that policing needs to be devolved too. Askaris inherited from the much-loathed inspectorates of local authorities have very little legitimacy, or training, or much else other than a penchant for mindless violence. They are hated and feared in equal measure. In addition to devolving policing, we also need to devolve public prosecutions.

Before you freak out and accuse me of throwing napalm in the fire, consider that most of what we will do, what we will invest in and what we will be accused of doing unlawfully, ultimately, will fall under the jurisdiction of a county government. When the County Government of Nairobi City comes to collect rates from my duka along Biashara Street, and I have entered into a cozy arrangement with the welfare security association administered by the local CBD's Mungiki deputy, I think I will be well within my rights to tell Kidero's men to go jump in Nairobi Dam. If Mr Kidero sends one or tow or even a platoon of his askaris to collect their money, a muscular response from the Mungiki will be sufficient to persuade him that there some battles you win, and some battles that you ignore. It is for his own peace of mind.

Joseph Ole Lenku has consistently assured us that the National Police has well-trained personnel. But even the blindest mouse on the street knows that the centralised management of the National Police has not been smooth sailing. It is within the spirit of the Constitution to devolve policing to the county level, devolving the resources to ensure that it is effective. The fears that each governor will build up an armed militia rather than a credible public safety department should be overcome by banning the deployment of armed police on the streets other than during a national emergency at which time the police will fall back under a national command. We can retain a national police presence for anti-terrorism, narcotics interdiction, domestic counter-intelligence and human anti-trafficking efforts.

Local policing is largely ho-hum. It is essentially to keep businesses and homes from being burgled or broken into or vandalised. It acts as a source of intelligence about crime organisations, such as they are, and crime trends, especially crimes against the person such as assault or sexual offences. It most arduous task is investigating crimes for which there are no witnesses or the available witnesses are unreliable. In few locations is the police called upon to use armed force to enforce the law; for the most part, the mere presence of police on patrol is sufficient to deter petty crime. This is what Kenyans need; effective policing that is not reliant on the wielding of the ubiquitous Heckler & Koch G3 assault rifle or the ever-popular AK-47. Even the police will admit that deploying assault rifles to deter purse- and mobile-phone-snatchers is a little too much.

National policing has been a disaster. Command and control is done from Nairobi. The Inspector-General and the Director of Criminal Investigations may be eminently qualified for their jobs, but the game has changed and unless they are willing to delegate effective control to county commanders, they will always be pushing against the sky in the war on crime. It is time they headed a smaller police outfit that concentrated on policing matters of national import; at the grassroots level - petty crimes and simple assaults - the governors should have effective control of policing. And to guard against tribalism, governors can only fill ten per cent of their police with persons from the county; the remaining 90% will be recruited by the Inspector-General and the Director of Criminal Investigations. It is time for bold solutions. Devolve policing.

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