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Let new police chief renew vital service

Friday March 15 2019

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The appointment of Hilary Mutyambai as the Inspector-General of Police presents a chance for renewal of the agency. Coming simultaneously with the appointment of commissioners to the National Police Service Commission, the public expects drastic changes in management of security matters.

Top on the agenda is the fight against terrorism, which sits perfectly within his purview, with Mr Mutyambai having served as Deputy Director of Counter-Terrorism at the National Intelligence Service (NIS). The country is still reeling from the terrorist attack on Dusit complex in January that left at least 21 dead.

Secondly, the new IG has to redeem the image of the National Police Service, which has persistently featured adversely in the public domain. Police officers are routinely faulted for corruption, extortion, brutality and lethargy. Corruption surveys always rank the service at the top — an ignominious position that undermines public confidence. Yet not all police officers are corrupt, brutal or lethargic. Many are hardworking, committed and upright officers of high integrity. When the occasion demands, the police service has demonstrated superior capability in enforcing law and order.

Thirdly, he must progress reforms in the service. For a long time, the government has talked of undertaking drastic reforms to give the service sheen. But the reforms move in fits and starts. At one time, there is sense of urgency and a few things are done but, quickly, the agency reverts to the old bad ways.

Mr Mutyambai and the new commissioners must focus attention on professional reorientation of the NPS. Training, changing work ethics and attitude is vital. When the Constitution renamed the agency to drop the “police force” reference, the intention was to humanise and make NPS a friendly and pro-people unit.

It can be recalled that, soon after the 2010 Constitution came into force, all senior police officers were subjected to fresh vetting to determine their suitability to continue in service. That created hope that, with properly vetted and suitable officers, the police service was destined for greater things. But that was not to be.

The new IG must reignite that fire. He must carry out a thorough shake-up in terms of operations, deployment and performance. Officers must be properly equipped to enable them to perform.

Fourthly, the new IG must deal with the welfare matters that undermine the performance of police officers. On this front, the controversy of the police housing scheme must be resolved. The accent is that the officers deserve proper accommodation.

Once approved by Parliament and finally appointed, the new police chief must roll out changes that can transform the service in a remarkable way.