IPOA: Long Road To Accountable Policing

For years, there was a clamour for world class policing in Kenya that would be characterized by a transformed, citizen-driven police service.

That dream was among others, driven by the urge to ensure that law enforcement did not surmount to committing wrongs against the citizens and whenever it occurred, there would always be a fall-back in form of an accountability mechanism.  

This was before 2012 when wrongs committed by police officers – killings, inaction, torture, abuse of rights, arbitrary arrests, illegal detention, instituting trumped up charges and frivolous investigations – among others, were investigated by police themselves.

It occasioned fear among the general public that a few errant police officers who were called out for perpetrating ills would often escape justice and go scot free – their colleagues would protect their own.

Such fears eroded the much-needed public confidence, a major catalyst for transforming the police service until the Independent Policing Oversight Authority came into being in 2012.

The realization of this dream was however tumultuous before the agitation reached a crescendo after the 2007-2008 post-election violence during which 1,300 people were killed, a significant number of them felled by police bullets, and others because of police inaction to protect lives as it was established by the Justice Waki Commission into the upheaval.

The Commission unearthed the damning findings on the actions of police during the havoc and as a result, there was basis for creating the Police Reforms Taskforce which was headed by Justice Philip Ransley.

Better known as the Justice Ransley taskforce, it made 200 recommendations on how best to transform police Force into a Service that while enforcing law and order, is citizenry centered – having the best interest of Kenyans in mind and at heart.

One of the recommendations was to create a police oversight body comprising of civilians only.

This gave birth to the formation of yet another team; Police Reforms and Implementation Committee (PRIC) with the task of ensuring that the 200-recommendation report did not gather dust on the shelves of government stores but is implemented to the letter.

One of its products was the Independent Policing Oversight Authority Act, which was enacted by parliament with the intention of giving life to Article 244 of the 2010 Constitution, the provision that demands the National Police Service should be transparent and accountable to the members of the public.

Down the line the Authority has received and processed more than 19, 000 complaints since opening its door to the public sometime in 2015, three years after parliament enacted the law that established it.

The writers of that law appreciated the gravity of the matter they were handling and with deep understanding of its consequences, they delivered a piece of legislation – The Independent Policing Oversight Authority Act.

It is through this law, written with the participation of the general public, that on May 22, 2012, Kenya delivered IPOA, one of the babies conceived after the Constitution was promulgated on August 27, 2010.

The Authority has continued to execute its mandate ever since with successes on one hand and challenges on the other.

One of the major challenges documented many times since IPOA became operational was the non-cooperation by members of the National Police Service.

However, there is a relief following newfound partnership between government agencies that operate in the realm of policing in Kenya.

The collaboration, an initiative of Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National Government Dr. Fred Matiang’i, not only brought on board State agencies involved in policing but further embraced the efforts of the civil society and religious organization within the Criminal Justice System.

The close working relationship has seen IPOA overcome initial hurdles and therefore world-class policing expectations of Kenyans are gradually and surely become a reality.

Most recently, IPOA has been able to fast-track in execution of its mandate as a result of better understanding with other agencies.

Kenyans expect nothing short of the Authority which the law demands it must publish its activities including successes, challenges and recommendations every six months.

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