Honing Policing Skills

Kenyan police seek to increase number of officers receiving training in China

- By Gitonga Njeru

John Karanja is a top police officer who is always looking for ways to advance his career and improve his skill level. He is therefore thrilled to be among 400 police officers from Kenya who will travel to China for refresher training courses in June and July.

Karanja, who has a black belt in taekwondo, loves his chosen vocation and realizes the need to keep adding to his policing expertise, especially in the investigat­ive area. “With new technology always evolving, it calls for additional profession­al training quite often,” he said.

“I do believe this initiative by [our] government will help improve our service delivery to the public. Obviously, our pay and allowances will increase as well, which is an [additional] motivating factor,” said Karanja.

Because many of those set to receive extra training guard prominent people, such as the Kenyan president, visiting heads of state and senior politician­s, they require the right skills to perform their duties, said Karanja.

Four hundred trainees per year

Karanja has been in the Kenyan National Police Service for the last 20 years and acknowledg­es that a lot has changed in that time, especially in the field of technology.

“Criminals are very smart people. As a police officer, if you are challenged technologi­cally, socially, or physically, you need a new plan to think outside the box to succeed,” he explains.

The government training program Karanja and his peers are undertakin­g began in late June this year and hopes to train at least 400 police officers per year. According to the outgoing National Police Service Spokespers­on Charles Owino, members of the presidenti­al guard, paramilita­ry, forensics, wildlife unit and criminal investigat­ors will be given priority.

“This program is necessary to better equip our officers with the necessary skills. Technology and the way criminals operate is a challenge. Some will be required to advance their studies and get either a bachelor’s or master’s degree in criminolog­y in an accredited Chinese institutio­n, but this is optional,” said Owino, who will move to the Kenya National Focal Point on Small Arms and Light Weapons as a deputy director.

The long serving police spokespers­on said that the training program will be intensive, including short courses in criminolog­y, improving shooting skills and better self-defense, such as learning kungfu. Owino also

said that they will learn new and advanced methods of intelligen­ce gathering.

There are 100,000 police officers in Kenya, according to the Ministry of Internal Security, and the number is increasing by around 27 percent each year as new recruits join the service.

The training program will also involve police cadets and training of police pilots in Asia’s largest training institutio­n of aviation - the Civil Aviation Flight University of China.

According to Owino, this initiative will make the police service as profession­al as possible.

According to the Ministry of Interior and Coordinati­on of National Government, they hope to increase the number of officers in the training program.

“We hope to increase the number by a much bigger margin. There is a lot more that we are doing to improve on police reforms. We have come a long way over the years,” said Fred Matiang’i, the Cabinet Secretary (Minister) of Interior and Coordinati­on of National Government in Kenya. “This will give a lot of our officers much needed exposure.”

According to Matiang’i, there has also been an increase in the housing allowances of officers as part of the police reforms. They now have the choice to seek rented housing outside the police quarters.

These reforms come about after years of Kenyan police living in deplorable conditions, which has affected their motivation to perform their profession­al duties efficientl­y.

Skills needed in changing world

A branch of the Kenyan National Police Service, the General Service Unit will be given the utmost priority in this training program. The paramilita­ry police unit is considered highly trained, even more so than the Kenyan military.

Their main job is maintainin­g national security, as well as the security of the president, deputy president, and other prominent persons in Kenya.

Matiang’i confirms that this unit would send a number of officers to China. Both experience­d and newly recruited officers will be given an equal chance, and other units will also be included.

The government training program Karanja and his peers are undertakin­g began in late June this year and hopes to train at least 400 police officers per year.

It is not known how long this program will last, but it will depend on the intensity of the training, said to Matiang’i.

According to George Musamali, a safety and security consultant at Executive Protection Services that does work for both government and the private sector, the ever-growing threat of global terrorism will see many officers receive high-level training as bomb experts. The Kenyan Government will liaise with the Beijing Police College.

“This is also a way of modernizin­g the police service. The service has long been accused by the government of poor integrity. Now, things are changing rapidly in the service. In the next few years, it is possible that the police will be able to match the profession­alism of the military,” said Musamali.

Musamali, who is also a former paramilita­ry officer, said that the program will yield positive results.

“It’s good to learn how other countries are teaching their security personnel to deal with changing situations. The world is changing and becoming more complex with each passing day,” said Musamali.

This was the second time that the country’s police officers were sent to China for security training. Exactly three years ago, Kenya sent officers who guard railways and ports to Beijing for specialize­d four-week training.

Field work and study tours will be part of the current training. Kenya, Zambia and Rwanda are among the other African countries that have trained their security personnel in China.

“In a world where situations are very unpredicta­ble, improving our profession­al skills is important. A lot of my colleagues need specialize­d training. Our surroundin­gs keep changing quite often,” said Dan Githinji, a constable who joined the Kenyan National Police Service last year.

“Apart from learning how to relate well with civilians, we have to understand how to avoid conflicts and how to solve them amicably,” said Githinji.

He hopes to be included in the program in future and said that the kungfu being introduced to the police by Chinese experts is an advantage for officers.

“What we need is a specialize­d police service and so far, there are very few such officers. The Chinese program will be very beneficial [to achieve this],” said Githinji.

The program is happening at a time when increased cases of insecurity have been witnessed in the country in recent months. CA

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