The streamlining of the National Police is causing anxiety in the Administration Police, the Kenya Police and the DCI.

The most contested is the plan for DCI chiefs of all ranks to report to new commanders, the uniformed police, whom many consider inferior.

The government began implementing radical changes in the NPS to increase its effectiveness and efficiency. President Uhuru Kenyatta said the reforms would close the gap between the twin services of APS and the KPS, and tackle brutality and abuse of human rights.

“The changes will clarify and simplify command and control to increase accountability and performance,” he said.

The President said Kenyans want to be policed by men and women who are fair and ready to make a stand against corruption and abuse of office, rather than hinder economic and business activity.

However, the changes have rattled many officers, and the restructuring of the command structure has already claimed casualties.

Posts abolished include the APS regional commander, KPS regional commander, DCI regional commander, county coordinating commander, KPS county commander, APS county commander and DCI county commander.

Some senior officers have lost lucrative duties and others, prestigious offices and powers.

POWERS REDUCED

There has been a parallel command in APS and KPS, as well as the DCI. The changes set one command, which eliminates the two lines in command of APS and KPS, and officers in both services are placed under one command in each jurisdiction.

This means some officers have to lose their positions.

More than 24,572 APS officers will join the KPS’s 39,680 in the General Duties that were previously a reserve of the KPS only, to raise the number of cops in GD to 64,252. And as a result, the officers in GD will focus on public safety and security.

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Interior CS Fred Matiang'i talks to police officers from Eastern region after addressing them on police reforms and the need for better services to the public /FILE

The APS will be left with slightly over 7,000 officers, who will be tasked with border control and security, as well as combating cattle rustling and banditry.

The reduction of the APS numbers means the deputy IG in charge of the service will be in command of fewer officers, and hence considered less powerful compared to their KPS counterpart. This has not gone well with APS seniors.

Noor Gabow, the current DIG in charge of APS, will be left in charge of the formed-up units of the APS, comprising 7,000 officers, mainly drawn from the elite Border Patrol, the Security of Government, Rapid Deployment Units, and the Quick Response Team.

The NPS is setting up a police special unit for protection of national infrastructure and critical installations with about 8,000 officers, and the Anti Stock Theft Unit will be retained.

It is not clear who will be in charge of the two formed-up units, although it is presumed they will be placed under APS.

DISCONTENT SIMMERING

Tension has been brewing since the President announced the changes. The service is simmering with a sense of superiority, betrayal, disloyalty and infighting.

The hardest part of the reforms is to instil a common understanding of police station work and build a feeling of pride and mutual loyalty that will be symbolised by a joint pass-out parade.

For instance, IG Joseph Boinnet and DCI chief George Kinoti are still battling over the reforms.

Kinoti is pushing for a review of the ranking system to enable DCI chiefs, especially at top levels, to maintain the ranks of AIG.

In the proposed changes, the regional police commander would be elevated to AIG.

The DCI commander operating under the regional police commander would hold a lower rank, possibly commissioner of police.

This means, for instance, that a regional police commander in Nairobi will hold the rank of AIG, while the DCI chief in the same area will be a mere commissioner of police.

A senior officer at the Embakasi Training College said it is going to be difficult for senior officers under the APS to accept to serve under KPS command, where they are deemed juniors in command structure.

“We are not against reforms but our problem is that the IG seems to be favouring one side,” the officer said.

“This is obvious because if you look at the new uniforms, for example, none of us in the AP was consulted. We were just informed of the new uniform then suddenly, we saw the IG already in one.”

He said this has not gone down well with officers in the AP command because they think the IG, who is supposed to act as a unifying factor, is sacrificing them at the expense of KPS.

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President Uhuru Kenyatta with police officers wearing their new uniform during the launch at the Kenya School of Government in Nairobi on September 13, 2018. /COURTESY 

“It is common knowledge that Kenya Police is more vulnerable and corrupt, but because most Kenyans do not understand the difference between Kenya Police and AP, they just generalise that all police are corrupt. This is why we feel the IG is seeking to soil the good reputation of AP with this merger,” the officer said.

In a sign that not all is well, while meeting security chiefs at the Coast mid-January, Interior CS Fred Matiang’i urged the new commanders to work hard to address the discord that has existed in the service for decades.

“We have no option but to work together. Let us stop this silo mentality and collectively address the discord to intensify the mode of service delivery,” he said.

Matiang’i said that is the only way to put an end to blame games that have manifested in the past.

A junior officer at a chief’s camp in Nairobi said AP officers are the most disciplined in the police service, and despite that, they have given their lives for the sake of the country compared to their Kenya Police counterparts.

POOR PAY

Kenyan policemen are poorly paid and have to make use with archaic housing that has not been expanded or renovated since the 1970s.

This has made them susceptible to corruption and crime.

Extortion and bribery are not unknown practices, and the public ranks the police among the most corrupt bodies in the country.

In July 2010, then Interior CS George Saitoti announced a 28 per cent pay increase for junior officers and a 25 per cent pay increase for senior officers.

This meant that a junior officer, a Police Constable, could receive Sh21,000 a month, including allowances. But a constable in Mandera said new recruits earn Sh19,120 with an annual increase of Sh500.

He said married officers manning the border get a hardship allowance of Sh2,300 a month, which translates to about Sh76 a day, compared to those not married who earn Sh1,800, which is an equivalent of Sh60 in a day.

“We have been getting a gross salary of about Sh35,000, plus the new house allowance of Sh5,500 makes it Sh40,500. After some deductions, you find that we have gone back to where we were,” the officer said.

The officers had initially been promised house allowances of Sh8,500 with a commuter allowance of Sh3,000, making it Sh11,500 in total. But they have only been receiving a house allowance of Sh5,500 and commuter allowance of Sh3,000, making it Sh8,500.

“In short, what we are likely going to experience is a worse situation than we have been in. They add small allowances but large deductions, subjecting us to the same conditions,” he said.

The National Police Service Commission will have to be involved in revising salaries for the officers. Head of corporate affairs Patrick Odongo said some areas will have to be put on hold until another commission is constituted.

“We know we cannot be talking of reforms without serious consideration of welfare. If we can put the officers under good house allowance, commuter allowance, give them a good health cover and insure them, then we shall be moving in the right track on the reforms,” he said.

NO BIG DEAL?

Director of reforms Jasper Ombati told the Star there should be no cause for alarm over the process.

He said the reforms are being strategically implemented to ensure a smooth integration of the two services.

“People will always express different perceptions when there is change. But all we are looking at is adaptation of new and modern technology to enhance service delivery,” Ombati said.

“We know the welfare of the officers is critical and salary is the key motivator. We know we are not paying enough, but that is not the key issue for now. We are looking at other aspects to be taken to account in the reforms.”

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