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Ideas & Debate

New inspector-general must slay the dragon of impunity or risk early exit

Incoming Inspector- General of Police Joseph Boinett. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA
Incoming Inspector- General of Police Joseph Boinett when he appeared before the joint security committee of Parliament and the Senate at the County Hall in February. The MPs approved Mr Boinett’s appointment last week. PHOTO | DIANA NGILA 

The President’s nominee, Joseph Kipchirchir Boinett, was approved last week by Parliament and is now awaiting formal appointment.

Regardless of how he was nominated, vetted and appointed, the incoming IG should not be misled into believing that he owes the Executive or Legislature any favours, otherwise he would be used, abused, and also dumped, as others before him.

Let the law guide him, as he said during vetting by the MPs and Senators, nothing else.

Mr Boinett should strategically think on how to superintend the entire National Police Service — comprising the Kenya Police and the Administration Police (AP) — especially because he has no baggage of history in either service, and merge these two units into an effective, efficient and professional service.

He will have to make hard decisions to reform their management, including reorganising the troops of both units and realigning the National Police Service’s budgeting and spending priorities.

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Mr Boinett should, for example, steer away from institutional factionalism, particularly sibling rivalry between the Kenya Police and the AP not to mention other specialised units whose rivalry is always at play when it comes to the resource pool, tools and equipment, and execution of mandates.

Currently, we do not have a National Police Service, but a conglomerate of ‘forces’ answering to different commanders, with different resource pools, and some receiving more favours from the Executive than others.

Further, Mr Boinett knows that the Constitution is the fundamental law, and that it together with other independent organs such as the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) and the Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), should make his work easier; not frustrate him.

This will be a real test for the incoming IG. IPOA is essentially based on Article 244 that calls for respect for all constitutional human rights standards and values, which are not an anathema to police work (as some might perceive them) but are facilitative.

The NPSC role, based on Article 246, is to give policy advice on recruitment, promotions, demotions, transfers, vetting and such other policy issues, through regulations, to professionalise the service from a human resource perspective.

Further, the roles of IPOA, including investigation, inspection of police premises, complaints management processes, monitoring police operations, and such are not to hamper police work, nor to find fault, but to ensure that rogue police (the so-called ‘rotten apples’) leave the service, as they surely do not deserve to be policing in the 21st century. IPOA does not exist to whitewash or to witch hunt.

The police must of necessity start obeying the law just like everybody else, and if not, they will be prosecuted, just like anybody else.

There is almost nothing new, other than that role has been shared with a civilian authority, in fulfillment of the constitutional provision that the security organ is subject to civilian authority (Article 239(5)).

The IG cannot afford to start fighting with the above institutions, but has to learn to work with them, for without them, he will surely perish. For instance, IPOA has made many recommendations to the police.

These include setting up a command structure, at the national and county levels. This is not a new invention, but the incoming IG must look at the IPOA recommendations, where this has been identified as the most troublesome issue facing the police today.

Further, IPOA and many institutions expect that the Internal Affairs Unit (IAU) will be functional, as the sole accountability mechanism within the police.

The IG should ensure that the IAU works, for without this, the IG cannot deal with professional misconduct internally, and further, IPOA cannot review, monitor and audit the IAU to stem excesses.

Finally, but not least, Mr Boinett should “decriminalise” the police: they must cease to be riddled with criminals.

Working with the Directorate of Criminal Investigations and the IAU, not to mention with the IPOA and NPSC recommendations and reports, Mr Boinett should rise above the level of criminal gangs: both those inside the police force, and those working against the police from outside, including politicians, to undertake all manner of illegal and illegitimate businesses.

These include sales of illicit and licit drugs, syndicates of motor vehicle thefts, organised crimes whether transnational, national or county, and other crimes including the oft-invoked terrorism, sales of small and light weapons, livestock theft, wildlife poaching and sales of trophies, and so on.

If and when Boinett casts his nets wide, he will find who is who in society and police and that these range from the very high and mighty to the neither high nor mighty.

In conclusion, Mr Boinett must stop impunity, for otherwise, he will soon be a former IG, like his predecessor. He should, for example, be prepared to part ways with cartels of the past and present, investigate them, and ensure they are prosecuted (and start afresh), even when these belong to the inner sanctum of his office.

Mr Boinett is taking office at a time when the reputation of the police is at an all-time low, with the officers chasing the innocent rather than criminals.

His real challenge is to restore, or even create, confidence in the fairness and efficiency of the police. We hope he is up to the task.

Mr Kagwe is an IPOA board member. Any views or opinions presented herein are solely his and do not necessarily represent those of the board.

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