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Kenya: Police Photo IDs to Boost Public’s Trust
Source: nation.co.ke
Source Date: Saturday, November 27, 2010
Focus: Electronic and Mobile Government
Country: Kenya
Created: Nov 29, 2010

A new system that will see all police officers required to wear photo IDs on their uniforms is set to improve levels of accountability in dealings between the police and citizens.

The move is part of the broader police reforms package that was a key element of the Agenda Four set of changes endorsed by the political leadership following the 2007/8 post-election crisis.

Human rights campaigners have long lobbied for photo IDs for police officers.

Under the leadership of Maina Kiai, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights petitioned the police force leadership to endorse the idea in 2004, an initiative that had little success.

Vital step

“This is a vital step forward in efforts to tackle impunity,” said Mr Khelef Khalifa, a former commissioner of the KNCHR.

“Having the picture, name and number of every police officer displayed on their uniforms helps boost trust between the police and citizens, weeds out the elements that pose as policemen and creates greater accountability levels in the force.”

The police force regularly tops polls of the institutions Kenyans trust the least. A long-standing culture of corruption among officers and cases of brutality against citizens has eroded citizen trust in one of the key institutions in the justice system.

Police Spokesman Eric Kiraithe said the force welcomed the photo ID initiative, but said there was a need for a more holistic approach to reform efforts.

“We have to be careful how we manage the process of change. We have to involve the officers. The constable on the beat will not change and cannot change unless there is proactive engagement to help them appreciate the need for change,” he said.

Mr Kiraithe said the reform package should include measures that address the standard of living of officers to improve morale.

“At present, you have police lines that are comparable to slums with no water supply and insufficient space.

There are many DCIO (Divisional Criminal Investigating Officers) without operational vehicles in Nairobi. These are things that must be addressed as part of efforts to prepare the human resource base for change,” Mr Kiraithe said.

Lack of resources

The police reforms are likely to be constrained by lack of resources. The police estimate the entire reform package will cost about Sh81 billion, a figure well in excess of the annual budgetary allocation for the force.

Also, the measure to have the police wear photo IDs is expected to be accompanied by a change of officers’ uniforms.

The new uniforms will be designed to create room for a photo ID to be attached to the lapel on the left and for medals to be pinned on the right side of the uniform.

But human rights campaigners say the leadership of the police force frustrated past efforts to implement some of the measures being tackled now.

“Around 2004, we approached Maj-Gen Hussein Ali and received sufficient donor support to have all the police officers kitted with uniforms that have photo ID,” said Mr Khalifa.

“Everything was ready and all that was needed was a letter from Maj-Gen Ali saying he backed the proposal. We went to him with Mr Kiai and he said the change was not a priority.”

Mr Kiraithe acknowledged that Mr Ali had rejected the initiative but said his objections were based on his feeling that reform measures in the police force should be backed by domestic resources because donor funds can be fickle.

Whatever the motivation for the failure to back the reform efforts, it appears the current pro-reform mood will force the police force to adopt the new measures, which will make it easier for aggrieved citizens to take their cases to the Police Oversight Board when they have complaints against particular police officers.

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