The role of Community Policing in Curbing Insecurity in Kenya
Table of Contents
Security is a basic necessity in every society as it is a watershed for development and prosperity in all sectors of the economy. However, for a long time this has been elusive both in the urban and rural areas (Bartkowiak-Theron & Corbo Crehan, 2010). The insecurity experienced in many societies ranging from terrorism, cattle rustling to petty crimes has had devastating effects inducing loss of lives and massive destruction of property. In managing the security situation, the police resources in terms of personnel and equipment seem to have been strained as insecurity levels soar (Braga & Weisburd, 2010). It is believed that the criminals and perpetrators of insecurity live within same society and therefore, members of the society can identify them thus community policing was muted in Kenya. This study therefore, aimed at evaluating community policing as a security enhancing strategy.
According to the Community Policing Manual (2004), Community Policing as a security strategy in Kenya was launched on the 27th of April 2004 at the Ruai Police station in Nairobi by the then President of the Republic of Kenya with the main objective of having a safe and secure environment for sustained socio-economic development and as part of the Kenya Police Force reforms (Braga & Weisburd, 2010). This was meant to reduce crime as it was assumed that criminals lived in the community and therefore community members were in a good position to identify them and report them to the police.
The main stakeholders in this strategy are the community/wananchi supported by the Police, the Provincial Administration, and other Stakeholders in the security realm. To meet the intended purpose, committees were established from village to District levels to ensure the success of this strategy
Before its inception, there was conventional policing on one hand which relied heavily on centralized safety and security management which isolated the police from communities they served (Braga & Weisburd, 2010). On the other hand were the vigilante groups which purported to provide security to the community members at a fee and which mostly took the law into their hands. Therefore, Community Policing was meant to bring a partnership between the community and police in combating crime in the country. It is on this backdrop that this paper focuses on analyzing the effectiveness of Community Policing in curbing crime in Kenya.
Security has been considered as a key pillar to socio-economic development and prosperity in every society. However, in Kenya this has become elusive as insecurity is on the increase thus negating the spirit of the development process and attainment of millennium development goals and vision 2030 both in the urban and rural areas. The situation is further compounded by the fact that the country does not meet the United Nations requirement of “one police officer for every four hundred and fifty people”( Braga & Weisburd, 2010), as the ratio of the police to the population stands at a low level of one police officer for every one thousand one hundred and fifty Kenyans (Braga & Weisburd, 2010). Owing to this limitation, the Government of Kenya was prompted to implement community policing as a measure of reducing the gap between the police and the community to curb insecurity (Cordner, 2014).
In Kenya, the security situation has over time deteriorated. It is characterized by theft of livestock and farm produces which has given rise to inter-ethnic conflict. Therefore the objective of this paper is to use the existing information to analyze and document the effectiveness of community policing as a security strategy in Kenya with Kenya being the case under study (Cordner, 2014).
The findings of this study will help the Kenyan Government to assess the performance of a strategy it muted to solve the security problems facing the country. This will be achieved by identifying the contributions of the strategy to enhancing the security in the country.
The community in general will also to benefit from the findings of this study as members will understand their role and contribution in community policing and improving their own security. This will also help eliminate the misconception about the intention of community policing as the concept has not been fully grasped by the common man in the country.
In addition, the findings of this study will add to the existing poll of knowledge and also form a basis for further research.
Community policing brings police and citizens together to prevent crime and solve neighborhood problems. With community policing, the emphasis is on stopping crime before it happens, not responding to calls for service after the crime occurs. Community policing gives citizens more control over the quality of life in their community. Community policing means police become part of the neighborhood (Cordner, 2014). This helps police get a better sense of resident’s needs and helps residents to develop greater trust in the police. In essence the community joins the police department. Those “who believe that community policing is practiced in their neighborhood are more likely to express favorable opinions of the police (Cordner, 2014).
Community policing is seen as an effective way to promote public safety and to enhance the quality of life in a community. Community policing plays a pivotal role in the two defining elements of policing: police-community relations and problem-solving. “First, it should broaden police organization goals. Second, it should alter the way police are organized to accomplish their goals.” (Cordner, 2014) Active participation is required from the local government to the average citizen in order for community policing to work. Everyone is responsible for safeguarding the welfare of the neighborhood (Lee, 2010). Unlike traditional policing methods, the goals of policing are expanded and the perception of community is changed. Traditional policing assumes that the problems of society are not within the realm of the police department. Traditional police departments are strictly reactive and don’t look beyond efficiently resolving the immediate incident at hand. Police officers are tied to the dispatcher and rarely have time to do more than answer one call after another (Lee, 2010). The police department, as an organization, separates itself from the city’s infrastructure and from city services.
Implementing community policing changes the structure of policing and how it is managed. Community policing helps build up and strengthen the community. It also links the police and the community together (Cordner, 2014). The partnership that develops over time can ultimately help the police find the underlying causes of crime within the neighborhood. By getting the community involved, the police have more resources available to them to help in crime prevention (Morabito, 2010). By familiarizing themselves with the members of the community, officers are more likely to obtain valuable information about criminals and their activities. Also they are more likely to obtain a reliable evaluation of the needs of citizens and their expectations of the police.
As previously stated, community policing plays a major part in police-community relations and problem-solving. In order to develop a partnership with the community, first the police must form a great relationship with the neighborhood. The police must try to involve the neighborhood in its pursuit to control crime. Most community concerns and solutions are identified through problem-solving (Reisig, 2010). The objective is to lessen crime and disorder by diligently examining the attributes of concerns in communities and then applying the most suited problem-solving solutions. For example, this has been implemented in Kenya via the Jumba Kumi program (Reisig, 2010).
With any method of policing there are going to be advantages and disadvantages. One of the main advantages to community policing is that it reduces fear in the community. With an increase in police presence in the neighborhood the residents feel more secure (Spalek, 2010). This feeling of security helps the police establish trust within the community. As citizen become more active in taking care of their community, they start to understand what officers actually do on a day-to-day basis (Braga & Weisburd, 2010). This improves police-community relations. Ultimately, quality of life for the community improves and crime is reduced. For example, in order to ease the security problem in Northern Kenya against Al-Shabaab the community has been involved via their chiefs to reduce the fear of terror they have.
Another advantage is that community policing is flexible and capable of changing. The solutions and strategies change as the community changes. If a plan works in one community it doesn’t mean that it will work in all communities. Community policing allows the community to come up with solutions that will work within their own neighborhood and to change or eliminate those that do not work (Spalek, 2010). Community policing can be implemented in a limitless number of ways. This is also true of problem-solving. They both are only limited by one’s imagination. Community policing offers a myriad of benefits. Making effective use of the talents and resources available within communities will help extend severely strained police resources. Also, reduced levels of crime will allow more police resources to be allocated to services that have the greatest impact on the quality of community life (Spalek, 2010).
According to Spalek (2010) community policing is only as good its community involvement. This also applies to community-based programs. “Community-based programs are important in the service delivery in many communities”( Spalek, 2010). Officers deal with the criminal aspects of community policing, but there are programs and projects that are implemented by the citizens, with the help of law enforcement, in an effort to help deter crime in their neighborhood. The list of programs implemented through community policing goes on and on. There are programs like, “Neighborhood Watch, citizen police academies, citizen surveys, and the establishment of community policing units” (Warner, Beck & Ohmer, 2010), that have become a staple in a lot of communities to help steer crime away from residential areas. Programs like National Night Out symbolizes a neighborhood’s unison in fighting crime by leaving their outside lights on. Citizens can find a plethora of ways to get involved in community policing. It can be as simple as making sure that the elderly lady down the street makes it home safely from the grocery store to starting your own Neighborhood Watch program (Warner, Beck & Ohmer, 2010).
Neighborhood Watch teaches the residents how to deter and detect suspicious activities. Starting a Neighborhood Watch is very beneficial to the police and the community. The benefits of organizing and participating in a Neighborhood Watch program translate into a higher quality of life. The following are some standard steps to help ensure a strong attendance and participation in your Neighborhood Watch Program (Warner, Beck & Ohmer, 2010).
Despite the roles that the policy has in curbing insecurity in Kenya it is also vital to note the challenges it has towards its implementation (Braga & Weisburd, 2010). A major disadvantage is that the only way that community policing is with community involvement. There must be an established partnership between the police officers and the community. Without the trust and involvement of the community, any attempts at community policing will fail. “Police and there would-be partners do not always value the same, or even compatible, things” (Warner, Beck & Ohmer, 2010). Effective community policing requires a long-term commitment from everyone involved. It is not a quick fix. Ongoing relationships must be established and maintained. Another disadvantage to community policing is making sure that the right people are heading up the project. The focus should be of improving the community and not using the program to advance their own personal career or agendas. Also, programs like community policing can be regressive (Bartkowiak-Theron & Corbo Crehan, 2010). Oftentimes when there is a problem that requires help from the community it seem like the same people always step forward. These are usually the homeowners that have longstanding ties to the community. Community policing requires everyone’s involvement, not just the homeowners (Braga & Weisburd, 2010).
Community-Based Policing can be a cement for security and development. A Police Force supported by the community and capable of arresting insecurity can have a far-reaching impact in enabling a lasting economic, social and political development. However, as international efforts have so far indicated, reforming a Police organization, re-orienting their shoddy public image and improving their service delivery, means facing daunting political, financial, logistical and historical obstacles. Achieving lasting and effective reform requires addressing issues of management, leadership, political will, set attitudes, established behaviors and negative public perceptions. It’s very complexity can be intimidating. Nonetheless, its centrality means that it is an issue that cannot be shied away from. With Police reforms now undertaken, it is paramount that there should be a clear understanding of what it entails and how is should be undertaken. It is hoped that this guide will be useful in both situating Community-Based Police reform within border policy debates, and guiding those planning the implementation.
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