Police Reform and Community Policing in Kenya: The Bumpy Road from Policy to Practice
A reform is underway in Kenya, aimed at transforming the police organization into a people- centred police service. Among other things, this involves enhancing police-public trust and partnerships through community policing (COP). Two state-initiated COP models have been implemented: the National Police Service’s Community Policing Structure, and the Nyumba Kumi model of the President’s Office. On paper, police reform and the two COP models would appear to have the potential to improve police-public cooperation. In practice, however, implementation has proven difficult. Interviews and meetings with local community organizations, community representatives and police officers in urban and rural parts of Kenya indicate that scepticism towards the two COP models is common, as is refusal to engage in them. But why is this so? Why are these two COP models unsuccessful in enhancing police-public trust and cooperation? This article analyses how various contextual factors—such as conflicting socio-economic and political interests at the community and national levels, institutional challenges within the police, the overall role and mandate of the police in Kenya, and a top-down approach to COP—impede the intended police paradigm shift.