According to the Kenya Police Service, community policing is defined as an approach to policing that recognizes the independence and shared responsibility of the Police and the Community in ensuring a safe and secure environment for all citizens. Community Policing was first launched in Kenya on 27th April 2005 by the then President, H.E Mwai Kibaki as part of a crime prevention strategy that was rolled out throughout the country implemented by the then provincial administration with varying levels of success and failure. 10th October 2013 saw President Uhuru Kenyatta launch the Nyumba Kumi Initiative in an effort to revive community policing by setting up a legal framework for it. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for community policing in Article 244 (e) which requires the National Police Service to foster and promote relationships with broader society. As such, Nyumba Kumi clusters of 10 households were set up in various parts of the country with varying reception. There was hostile reception especially in the urban areas where the elite asserted that their constitutional right held in Article 36 (2) to not be compelled to “form, join or participate in the activities of an association of any kind,” was being infringed upon. Other parts of the country experienced hostility in terms of nyumba kumi officials being attacked and labelled as spies in some communities, but thiswas largely owing to lack of proper understanding of the initiative.
The role that community policing can play in preventing and countering violent extremism cannot be overlooked because terror attacks are not planned in isolation but by people who live in communities.
The main goal of community policing is to improve public safety and is anchored on the premise that the local community is best placed in understanding and articulating their security concerns voluntarily to the police who in turn are responsive to the community’s needs. The mandate of nyumba kumi volunteers is essentially to keep abreast of the issues in their cluster and share necessary security information with the police for their action. Among the things they should report on are: entry of suspicious or unaccounted for people in their neighbourhoods, suspicious criminal activity, plans of criminal activity, and illegal activity among other societal vices. Nyumba kumi volunteers are not armed, cannot carry out arrests and should not request money, “protection fee,” from members of the public unless in cases where the residents have agreed to contract extra security for themselves. Community policing doesn’t have to be a very complex process, it can even be the setting up of a WhatsApp group for neighbours where the residents can share their local concerns which can then be forwarded to the police by the WhatsApp administrator. There is also a citizen watch platform, Mulika, that allows one to make anonymous reports via text which are then transmitted to The County Commissioner, The County Police Commander, The County Coordinating/County Administration Police Commander, The County Criminal Investigation Officer and National Intelligence Service.
The role that community policing can play in preventing and countering violent extremism cannot be overlooked because terror attacks are not planned in isolation but by people who live in communities. Extra vigour and intentionality in implementing a robust community policing culture could be instrumental in thwarting potential attacks when we all embrace the code that when you see something you should say something, to ensure safety of all. The National Police Service avers that “the police are the public and the public are the police”, the police are simply members of the public who are contracted to give round the clock attention to duties which are mandatory for every citizen in the interest of the welfare and existence of the community. In the infamous words of the former President Uhuru Kenyatta, “security starts with you” hence it is imperative that we all stay vigilant and each do our part in securing our beloved country.