How to improve Kenya security forces

Only by retraining, employing qualified people, can we improve security forces

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects a guard of honour during the Kenya Defence Forces Day celebrations at 3KR in Lanet, Nakuru

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects a guard of honour during the Kenya Defence Forces Day celebrations at 3KR in Lanet, Nakuru

Having served as an officer for over 17 years, I can claim to have a idea of what policing entails.

There is a general consensus that the service is severely challenged. It faces constraints in dealing with the changing dynamics of crime.

The police service traces its origin to the need by the British to further their movement into the interior of Kenya. It was established around 1884.

It expanded as the colony established itself in the country. By the time of agitation for freedom, the force was a well-established organisation charged will various tasks.

The first major problem with the police arose at independence. The force should have been redesigned to conform with the new State but this did not happen.

Whereas the armed forces could have maintained the colonial structure, owing to demand of their duties, the police should have undergone some structural and management changes to accommodate the interests of ordinary Kenyans who had not been catered for by the colonial regime. This omission or commission has continued to haunt us 50 years later.

Successive governments have failed to correct this anomaly and the end product is an ineffective and inefficient force.

The most notable indicator of this malady is that the police expect their presence to deter the commission of offences.

This was possible years ago, but society has changed.

It is acknowledged that police perform poorly in crime detection, solving, prevention and general police work.


Accumulation of incomplete cases has led to frustrations in the public. Once society realises that little help can come from the police, it deletes the force from its psyche and this fuels the breakdown of law and order.

This is the state of affairs in Kenya. At the station level, very little work goes on. Stations are seriously handicapped in terms of personnel, equipment and other requirements, making the demand for police to secure the country appear like a joke.

No clear records are kept for crimes reported, suspects and investigations.

The most you will get are files for cases in court. Officers Commanding Stations (OCSs) have very little data or none on information and records about crimes in their areas. As such, it is difficult for them to understand what crimes require attention.

Take the case of Nairobi. There is no well-established method for OCSs to share information and intelligence reports on crime. For instance, a carjacking can take place in Kilimani and the Kasarani OCS will not be aware of it. The crime will be reported at Kilimani Police Station and forwarded to the provincial and police headquarters but it will not be copied to other stations.

So it possible for a gang to carjack a citizen in Lang’ata, abandon him in Embakasi, carjack another in Starehe and so on and the police would not know that it is one group.

All will have these reports submitted to police headquarters but without a common pool to analyse them. This makes it difficult to solve such crimes.


Proper investigations lead to convictions in cases where suspects are charged and this makes the victims feel justice has been delivered. In turn, this boosts public confidence in the service and makes it easier to combat crimes because wananchi will be willing to support the police.

One of the most cited reasons for judges dismissing cases or failing to convict suspects is “shoddy investigations”.

The truth, however, is that no investigations are ever conducted. A detailed investigation leading to arrest and presentation in court is rare. The service finds itself challenged, yet it is required to solve simple crimes and hand over the more complex ones to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations.

Initially, the DCI was a formation within the force, but it is becoming independent.

This will handicap the police even more, considering that DCI has been absorbing many of the recruits and the relationship between it and the regular police is not cordial.

The service has three main challenges: Manpower, training and equipment. Manpower is the most serious.

Whereas the colonial government required just an adult male who could be taught simple tasks like guarding, the contemporary world demands a can-do-more officer. Different environments and geographical differences also come into play. The policing required in Samburu is different from what an officer will face in Nairobi.

Previous governments played down the need to evaluate and change the requirement for recruitment into the service.

In the early 1990s, the entry level of education and qualification should have been raised so that by 2000 the service would be having qualified officers.


Whereas formal education played a limited role in policing in the 1950s and 1960s, we cannot underscore the importance of well-read officers.

Though the force has a significant number of degree holders, the impact is yet to be felt, considering that many are not involved in critical areas.

One of the hidden truths is that the force has been attracting graduates who fail to find better jobs elsewhere.

The terms and conditions in the service are unfavourable to degree holders. The government can target people with KCSE-level education who can be trained to deliver within the existing charters.

Not everyone with the certificate can join the force. Police work needs a fair level of ability to read, comprehend and remember issues. The service should demand a C+ and above for subjects like English, Kiswahili and History. Ability to write and explain should be mandatory. This is crucial in improving one’s ability to investigate and collect information for processing and analysis.

Police work also demands a high level of dedication, the willingness to serve, coupled with discipline and integrity.

Previous records in primary school and one’s conduct in the society should be examined.


After getting the right people, the next thing should be training. Whereas the service has made tremendous effort in upgrading its training manuals, a lot remains to be done.

Most important should be the emphasis on investigations of crime and intelligence gathering, which is non-existent in the initial training.

Once the service has the right persons, it will just need to equip them adequately for them to deliver. This would include offices, computers, writing materials, systems and networks and support from agencies like immigration, prisons and the Judiciary.

The point of change should be at the station level. Whereas policy formulation should be the preserve of higher echelons of the service, the place to effect change should be at the station, bearing in mind that it is the point at which the public meets the police.

This is where a report is made and initial response done before it is transmitted up.

Initial handling of reports determines outcome. We should aim our attention there by having the right person in charge, deputised by two officers well-trained in investigations and police work and who should be in the rank of inspectors.




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