Implementing Community-Based Policing in Kenya

Mbogo, J., Ndung’u, J., Campbell, I., and Rai, S.
Year of publication: 

Community-based policing (CBP) is an approach to policing that brings together the police, civil society and local communities to develop local solutions to safety and security concerns. This paper, published by Saferworld, assesses outcomes of and lessons learned from two CBP pilot-sites supported by Saferworld as part of its broader programme of police reform in Kenya. CBP improves public trust in the police, cooperation between police, citizens and community, and develops stakeholder capacity for security sector reform (SSR).

CBP allows police and community to work together to solve crime, disorder and safety problems. It makes safety and security a shared responsibility, emphasises police-community partnerships and targets policing needs in each community.

While Kenya has made marked development progress, poverty, crime, inadequate police capacity and distrust of police are still widespread. Public pressure for police reform in 2002 led the Government of Kenya to join with civil society and Saferworld to develop a programme of CBP.

CBP in practice includes police and community training and capacity building, the development of a national CBP policy, strategic planning and pilot CBP at the local level. Pilot CBP programmes can include community safety/information centres and support for local partnership safety projects.

Overall, the piloting of CBP has improved trust and cooperation between the police, civil society and communities. Other outcomes of and lessons learned from Kenya’s pilot CBP programmes are:

  • CBP develops synergy between community and national levels. CBP pilot sites have informed the process of developing the national government’s community policing policy.
  • Training in CBP addresses stakeholder capacity; it builds police, civil society and community capacity to develop SSR policies, strategies and programmes.
  • The accountable and responsive CBP approach gives citizens greater confidence to openly discuss safety and security issues.
  • CBP encourages police-community partnership. Information sharing between communities and police has helped police take crime prevention action; increased police patrols have improved neighbourhood safety.
  • CBP creates local ownership by giving communities the opportunity to develop their own safety initiatives.
  • CBP can target specific constituencies. Young people, often both victims and perpetrators of crime, are involved in CBP efforts to improve safety. Communities have also launched drug awareness campaigns.

While CBP pilot projects have yielded positive results, Kenya still exhibits institutional resistance to police reform, inadequate police capacity, funding and oversight and public distrust of police. The following steps would address these issues and help ensure improved community safety:

  • Combine organisational capacity-building with CBP training.
  • Encourage the volunteer concept in local communities.
  • Adapt CBP activities to specific community security issues, expectations and culture.
  • Continue CBP programme monitoring and evaluation to ensure ongoing effectiveness.
  • Continue international support for police reform in general and CBP in particular.
  • Increase donor advocacy to host governments of the CBP approach as a vehicle for police reform.