Local policing accountability in Kenya: challenges and opportunities for action

Local policing accountability in Kenya: challenges and opportunities for action

The work on police reforms in Kenya has a fairly long history without adequate change in the structure and attitude of the police service to match. Among the more difficult aspects of reform is transformation of attitudes within the Police Service to ingrain the values of democratic policing, and in particular, accountability to civilians in the exercise of police power. The commentaries on policing in Kenya have noted that the Service has a history of poor relations with civilians and does not enjoy high levels of confidence from the public. Credible policing in a developing democracy calls for accountable policing, where the exercise of police power is restrained, deliberate and cognisant of citizen rights. While the commentaries and other writings have focused on the state of policing particularly in relation to major towns, this study delves into accountability structures and needs at the local community level, where the scrutiny of oversight institutions, civil society organizations and the media is not as intense as in the capital city and other large cities.

The study focuses on police and civilian interactions in Eastleigh, Kirinyaga, Kisii and Mtwapa regions of Kenya. It identifies that the key hindrances to local policing accountability are a deep seated lack of confidence in the police which means citizens do not report crimes and do not monitor progress on crimes.

The study demonstrates that communities are already engaged in seeking greater accountability for police conduct locally through various initiatives. The study indicates that civil society organisations monitor police conduct on specific challenges (such as police shootings), develop analytical reports on police conduct within the community, conduct community education on rights, seek to establish working relations with the Officer Commanding Police Station (OCS) and senior police officers in order to open up channels for interventions and redress of specific issues, among others. This presents a rich base from which to build up community capacities to monitor, document and work with oversight institutions such as the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA), to hold police accountable. It provides a means of understanding the challenges specific to communities and working with both the police and community members to gradually raise the attitudes towards and levels of accountability.

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