January 31, 2023
On January 19, 2023, the National Task Force on Improvement of the terms and conditions of Service and other Reforms for Members of the National Police Service and Kenya Prisons Service sent an invitation to the Kenya Editors’ Guild to present views on the subject.
Kenya Editors’ Guild is a professional society that brings together senior editors in print, digital, broadcast and other electronic media. It seeks to: defend and promote free and independent media in Kenya; promote quality and ethical journalism; and, to provide a forum for the discussion of the issues facing the media and editors.
We are happy to present views follows
OBSERVATIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
- The Kenya Police Service and the Kenya Prisons Service are successors to colonial establishments. Despite changing its name from ‘Force’ to ‘Service’, the Police retains many of the founding characteristics which made it a force of occupation and repression. It has historically been associated with brutality, torture and killings of citizens, and a tendency to serve the interests of those who wield political and economic might. All too often an ordinary Kenyan seeking help at a police station is subjected to mistreatment, bullying and interrogation rather than a friendly and understanding welcome. To truly live up to the ‘Utumishi Kwa Wote’ slogan, the Police Service must be retrained from top to bottom, starting with the Inspector General and all the other senior officers and cascading down to the men and women on the beat.
- Efficiency of Police and Prisons operations in Kenya are hampered by rigid bureaucracy from antiquated or archaic command structures. Every cadre and rank must be empowered to account and take responsibility for their actions. In this way, officers can serve the public better by being in a position to make quick decisions
without waiting for orders and instructions from superiors. KEG Memorandum on Police Reforms.
- We have seen in the recent past police commanders and their political masters rejecting civilian oversight and the internal mechanisms established to ensure that officers operate within their Standing Orders and the law, and that those who transgress are called to account. This is a dangerous trend as it encourages criminal tendencies within the Service, particularly in regard to mistreatment of citizens and the culture of extra-judicial killings. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority and the Internal Affairs department must be strengthened, not weakened.
- The Police Service has always topped surveys on corruption perceptions. Indeed it sometimes appears that graft has been institutionalized within the Service, as exemplified by the numerous road blocks all over Kenya where matatu, bus and truck crews openly dish out cash to officers. The impunity witnessed on our roads
where speeding, dangerous driving, un-roadworthy vehicles contribute directly to an unacceptable level of road accidents traffic fatalities that are about the highest in the world is directly attributable to police corruption.
- Although they have official spokespersons across various units, both the Police Service and Prisons Service are sorely lacking in professional public communications. They have maintained the colonial era culture of secrecy and hostility to media enquiries. Officers in the field are also often not empowered to respond to and will refer all queries to headquarters in Nairobi. Effective communications systems, public engagements and open-door policies would go a long way towards changing public perceptions of the Police and Prisons Services.
- Editors should move to the next level and reach out and engage a lot more with the security sector. Editors should organize training sessions with top prison officers and top police officers to strengthen strategic communication from these two institutions. Sometimes important information goes unreported, because it was not shared or editors did not get to know about it.
- Quite some engagement has been done between the Kenya Editors’ Guild and the National Police Service but not as much with the Prison Service. The prisons and the police service should move away from their culture of secrecy and share lot more with media their positive stories, to enable editors publish the positive stories from the institutions.
- Officers in the uniformed services often work long and grueling hours, sacrificing their personal comforts and sometimes even their lives for the public good. They must be adequately compensated in terms of salaries and allowances, as basic needs and comforts around housing, medical care, family needs, counselling, career progression and education. Police and Prisons officers should have access to dedicated hospitals just like their counterparts in the Kenya Defense Forces. They should also have schools for their children, as well as access to duty-free goods at shops within their facilities.
- Persons once recruited, trained and deployed in the two services should serve for at least 7 years before they can voluntarily leave. This is to ensure value for public resources used to train them.
- Every police officer should be trained in basics of law, criminology, investigations, sociology, Information Communications and Technology (ICT), first aid, and public relations.Issued in NAIROBI on January 31, 2023
For and on behalf of the Kenya Editors’ Guild