NPSC, not Inspector General, has final word on all police promotions

Over a decade after the police reforms were initiated by the 2010 Constitution that created regulation, command and oversight transformations, many Kenyans feel that police reforms have failed, or need to live up to expectations.

Has the creation of Independent Police Oversight Authority (IPOA), National Police Service Commission (NPSC), and an ‘independent’ Inspector General (IG) helped our police transform into a professional, accountable, human rights-compliant body?

Presently, there is a kerfuffle regarding the promotions of police officers pitting the IG against NPSC regarding who has the mandate to promote police officers. There are reports that the IG has withdrawn the armed security of the NPSC Commissioner and other officials due to the NPSC’s public statements opposing 500 unilateral promotions made by the IG.

Is the security for commissioners a legal right, or is it a matter of the wishes of the IG? Does the IG get to choose which State officers deserve protection based on their alignment in terms of opinions? Does the Constitution and our laws bind the IG to provide security?

To avoid doubt, all human resources functions of the Kenya police belong to the NPSC pursuant to Article 246 (3), which gives it province over recruitment, appointment, confirmation of appointments, promotions, transfers, disciplinary control and removal from service.

Various commissions of inquiry, including the Waki Report on 2007-8 Post-Election Violence, Philip Alston Report on extrajudicial killings and Philip Ransley’s report on police reforms before the 2010 Constitution recommended the creation of an independent civilian body to cater for police human resource management to remedy the biased, baseless, nepotistic, tribalistic career progression that led to a rotten and unaccountable police service.

There is a feeling that the Johnston Kavuludi and Eliud Kinuthia-led commissions, since 2013, have been overly eager to please the executive at the expense of realising their constitutional mandates. Insiders claim that the NPSC has always been willing to donate its mandate.

IPOA successfully sued it in 2014 for unlawfully delegating its vital role in recruiting officers, which was a problematic stage of onboarding unsuitable personnel leading to many issues. Also, others have pointed out that the commission has been simply endorsing the IG’s decisions regarding promotions despite their mandate, historical significance and vital role in transforming the NPS into a professional service. Notably, when the BBI Taskforce recommended their dissolution at first and their domination by the IG, the current commission did not object. Who were they serving, the powers that be or the people of Kenya?

Of note was that in the 2019-2022 NPSC Strategic Plan, the Commission declared that it was part of the Ministry of Interior. The executive summary said it is a critical player in the executive arm of government, basically reversing the separation envisioned by the Constitution.

There is a theory that during colonialism, the police, a creature of the colonial regime, was ostensibly designed to facilitate the pacification of the blacks to ensure that all resources benefit the crown. Sadly, after independence, it was repurposed as a force for the regime and elite protection instead of a body to protect the rights of the country’s citizens.

At the heart of the Constitution-making process after PEV, leading to the 2010 Constitution , there was a desire to inculcate people and community-centred policing that was detached from regime alignment. Slowly but surely, we are returning to the days of African Police Commissioners who were presidential appointees dedicated to pleasing the president and regime while not caring about the people. It was what led Kenya to the precipice in 2007 in the first place.

First published in The Standard on 15th June 2023. Kindly reproduced here with permission from The Standard.

Demas Kiprono is a human rights lawyer and a Campaign Manager at Amnesty International Kenya. He writes in his personal capacity. Email: [email protected]