police officers

Collaboration Between Police and Youth will Improve Service Delivery in Kenya

 The promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya in 2010 brought a new life in Kenya. Among them is the reform of police services, geared towards modernizing and transforming the police agencies into professional and accountable police services responsive to the needs of Kenyans. This came after decades of law enforcement marked by police brutality, harassment, and extrajudicial killings.

A lot of changes have been witnessed in the National Police Service (NPS) in terms of administrative, institutional, policy, and legislative frameworks. However, despite all these efforts, a daunting task remains in boosting a good rapport between the police and civilians.

The acts of impunity by some members of the police service have greatly eroded the confidence of Kenyans towards the police. Most of the time, the police force is viewed as an enemy, a threat to life and peace, instead of being protectors of life.

Unprecedented violence, human rights, and dignity violations have hugely dented the image of the National Police Service; despite the many good acts of service, they have rendered to citizens. 

However, as much as we would like to lean on the negative side of the police force, it would be a grave injustice not to mention the many good acts of service rendered to Kenyans by the police. There are many good officers who have done exemplary work for the people, and in them, “Utumishi kwa wote” has found its fulfillment.

Talk about the officer who traded a gun for chalk to teach some students at the Kenya-Ethiopia border. Not forgetting the 25 police officers recognized by Manu Chandaria for their good work. There is much to be said about the Kenyan police on the peace-keeping mission in South Sudan, honored by the United Nations. Many good, loyal, and dedicated members of the police service have proved time and again that the public can still trust them to protect them. 

Changing the narrative 

To avert further aggression between the community and the police force, we must look back and check where we went wrong as a country and find possible solutions to this menace.

Historically, a culture of impunity was passed down from the colonial era and is evident in post-colonial Africa. The colonists used African tribesmen to carry out punitive expeditions on their fellow Africans. In the same vein, the police have little regard paid to the law, and the fact that it is little or no accountability for the police does not help.

Secondly, how the police are trained could be a factor in explaining the violence exhibited by our men and women in uniform. If you have been to Kiganjo, you have seen how the recruits are subjected to dehumanizing and degrading exercises in the name of recruitment. The lack of professionalism in the process might explain the situation’s “Kwa ground”. 

Lastly, the almost non-existent structures of civilian oversight do not make things better. The Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA) was founded in 2011 to investigate police brutality and killings as a way to check the power of the police. To date, only about 13 convictions out of 10,000 complaints lodged have been made. 

The much-needed shift 

There is a need for a 180-degree shift in mindset, which can only be brought about by training. If training is done properly, with regard to qualification and the dignity of the recruits, it will reflect on how they perform their duties. The training should focus more on human rights and the rule of law and be conducted in such a manner that the two are ingrained in the minds and hearts of the officers.

A powerless IPOA banking on the cooperation of the NPS will never perform as it ought to. The institution needs to have the power to compel the Inspector-General of Police to ensure accused police officers cooperate during investigations. Additionally, the government needs to allocate adequate funds to IPOA to enable them to conduct investigations. 

Another way to enhance oversight of the NPS could be to devolve the police service, borrowing a leaf from the American model that has established police departments in each state. Devolving the police service would allow for easier management of the officers by the county government. This would increase accountability as compared to centralized control of the police service. Devolving would also make the police more responsive to issues affecting residents of particular counties. This will also enable IPOA to monitor and investigate independent police departments, unlike a centralized one.

As Kenyans, we also have an individual responsibility to ensure that “Utumishi Kwa Wote” becomes a reality through expressing themselves by raising their voices against impunity as well as by being law-abiding citizens.

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Youth Wellness Connection: CSP Chat About Kenyan Youth Mental Health Crisis

By Audrey Kariithi

Every ten (10) people in Kenya suffer from a common mental disorder. The largest population of these statistics is made up of young people, from age 18 and 35. Youth currently make up 75 percent of Kenya’s population, and they are the most affected by mental health issues according to research. 

As an organization – Crime Si Poa, we feel there it’s critical for relevant agencies to analyze the impact mental disorder has on youth when evaluating the mental health status of the nation.

In 2021, Kenya established a Mental Health Taskforce to implement reforms to improve care for those with mental health conditions. The Taskforce reported that there exists high levels of depression,  suicidal behavior, mental distress, and substance use in the country among the youth.

According to  Dr. Jackson Kioko, Director of Medical Services (DMS), young people aged 10-24, face mental health risks associated with human rights violations, wars, and violence. 

He further noted substance abuse, sexual, reproductive, and gender identity issues, obesity and overweight problems, HIV infections, and cyberbullying among other issues affecting the youth mental condition in the country. 

This follows the World Health Organization’s 2017 report on the world mental health situation which ranked Kenya fourth in the highest number of depressed people in Africa.

Alarms should be going off by now!

In my experience as a mental health practitioner, it is not uncommon to have daily encounters with a person or two who have had traumatic life experiences…and if you are a 22nd Century youth in Kenya, you are familiar with the question, “What is wrong with young people?”

I would like to sit here and tell you that there is one principal cause of the declining mental health of youth and give a strict 300 mg prescription to be taken twice a day. In reality, there is a myriad of issues varying from individual to individual that makes it difficult to pinpoint what singularly goes ‘wrong.’

Family issues may be, unemployment?… The list goes on. We would always come up with different hypotheses. On a large scale, especially when lived by the individual, it feels like eternal damnation. Break these things down into smaller-sized issues, and we have ‘normal’ life challenges…but what really is “normal?”

Sadly, we live in a society that applauds tolerance (suffering in silence; without intention to remedy or exit the situation) as grit and endurance. You know, the old ‘toughen it out!’ Sometimes in our national culture, it is literally okay to not be okay.

Our attitude around mental health has an affinity towards coping. It is the reason for panic and disassociation once young people begin to breach the system and display visible cries for help; whether it is a high drug and substance abuse, increased engagement in crime, or literal suicide! 

What is questioned is young people’s integrity to cope.

We ask, “Have youth become so averse to challenges that we find it hard to adapt? Have they been ‘sheltered’ too much?”

Well, it’s neither Yes nor No. The answer is that Mental Health Matters and we need to pay attention. At all levels of intervention: within schools, communities, churches, workplaces and the very fabric of society, we should structure our response and improve our value systems around mental health.

What does this look like? 

Continue reading Crime Si Poa’s Mental Health Awareness and Intervention Blogs.


Sexual Harrassment Outside the Workplace: Criminal or Just Immoral?

I was going through my Whatsapp status updates when I came across a thread by my classmate. She was talking of how she and her sister had gone out to look for a shop and had an encounter with some men. The men started calling and greeting them and when they failed to respond, insults were hurled at them.

A number of ladies, including myself, can attest to having had such encounters. Not to say that the harassment is always done by men, but most of the time, it is. And it is uncomfortable and the object of the cat-calls often feels violated. Such behavior has become so commonplace in today’s society yet it was previously unheard of. Despite it being very common, it is only a moral offence and not a criminal one. However, I think it should be a criminal offence.

According to Section 23(1) of the Sexual Offences Act 2006 “Any person, who being in a position of authority, or holding a public office, who persistently makes any sexual advances or requests which he or she knows, or has reasonable grounds to know, are unwelcome, is guilty of the offence of sexual harassment and shall be liable to imprisonment for a term of not less than three years or to a fine of not less than one hundred thousand shillings or to both.” It is evident that the law only regards unwelcome sexual advances as sexual harassment where there is a distinct power relationship.

The question now becomes, does my friend just have to learn to ignore cat-calls or can she do anything about it? Truth is, she has no legal recourse. Neither her nor the little girl in the estate who is afraid to go to the shop because an ‘old mubaba’ keeps whistling and saying ‘size yangu’, a highly suggestive term in street slang, have any legal recourse. Yet, the behavior exhibited in both cases passes for unwelcome sexual advances.

Many are the times when a child has been defiled by a neighbor and in their statement, the child says that the perpetrator had made such ‘unwelcome sexual advances’ but they either had nowhere to report or their reports were brushed off because, under the law, nothing can be done. Children, or even at times adults, wait for the rape or defilement to happen before they can report. Which in my view is detrimental to the whole purpose of the law. 

Such habits can be indicators of imminent danger, especially because most guilty of this are people who live around the victims or watch their moves and could therefore pose a threat. If anyone feels violated or in danger, they should be able to report and action should be taken to investigate the claims. 

Section 124 of the Evidence Act provides that a child’s evidence need not be corroborated. Consequently, if sexual harassment was to be criminalized, such victims -child or adult, male or female- would have recourse and the law would serve as a deterrent to such persons. Where the moral fabric does not hold, the law should intervene.


Mid-term break not a solution to unrest in schools

In the last two weeks, we have witnessed a high number of schools go up in flames in what is suspected to be arson.

What is worrying is that the fires that have destroyed millions of shillings worth of school property and endangered young lives are turning out to be copycat acts of arson by students.