alexa Kenya’s Police Service needs to migrate to the digital age – and rather urgently - Daily Nation
 
  

Kenya’s Police Service needs to migrate to the digital age – and rather urgently

Wednesday July 30 2014

A Mombasa County police patrol car. Time is ripe for our Police Service to go digital. A lot can be garnered by doing so. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT

A Mombasa County police patrol car. According to an officer who spoke to the Nation on condition of anonymity, senior officers assign themselves new vehicles upon delivery instead of giving priority to patrol duties. PHOTO | KEVIN ODIT NATION MEDIA GROUP

The word ‘insecurity’ has been the most mentioned in Kenya’s media in the recent past. In a reactive response, the government has fronted several disjointed solutions that are yet to yield any fruits.

Because ours is a digital government, it’s a paradox the extent of analog equipment and approaches still being used by our Police Service.

The scene of policemen patrolling our streets with G3 rifles and archaic walkie-talkies and rushing to scenes of crime armed with pens and notebooks betrays the standing of Kenya as a leading ICT hub in Africa.

Tattered, faded and dusty manual files scattered across our police stations smell of a police service in dire need of a technology revolution.

Besides the recently installed security cameras in Nairobi’s CBD and awarding of a surveillance tender to Safaricom, there’s little to be proud of as far as modernising our police Service is concerned.

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To make matters worse, the camera initiative has turned into a circus, with drivers bluntly disregarding traffic lights in Nairobi’s CBD streets. Time is ripe for our Police Service to go digital. A lot can be garnered by doing so.

Installing cameras and surveillance equipment is just a part of the solution, but it will require to be merged with other tactics if the war on insecurity is to be won.

VIDEO OF EACH POLICEMAN

The use of technology to fight crime is a multi-faceted technique involving two parties: the citizens and the police. The citizenry should freely engage the officers without having to queue at police stations.

In this age of digitisation, police officers should be better placed by adopting technological solutions that encourage the public to report crimes and provide information without having to visit a police station.

Can you imagine what would happen if every station and AP post in Kenya adopted one of the following as a citizenry engagement channel: a Facebook page, a Twitter account, an SMS short code or a whatsApp contact number?

Taking it further, what if the OB books across our police stations were replaced with a computerised system?

It also follows that to curb police irresponsibility and unaccountability, it would do wonders if the government considered investing in technologies that promote good behaviour within the service.

As an example, several police units in Brazil have adopted a technology that entails having a mounted portable recording device on each policeman. As he or she is executing his or her duties, the device takes video and audio footage that is relayed to a central server for analysis.

Though there have been concerns over privacy by civil rights groups about adopting such a technology, the results are that police officers in Brazil are a lot more accountable.

In the case of Kenya, such a technology would be a strategic step towards eradicating bribery and corruption.

NEWLY-RELEASED CONVICT

Moving a notch higher, the focus should also be on curbing criminal activities among recently released hard-core criminals. One way of doing this is for legislation to be passed that would allow the use of GPS-enabled tracking devices that are tagged on individuals to track their movement.

This would be placed on a newly-released convict for at least three months, which is ample time to confirm whether he has truly reformed.

The United Kingdom is already doing this, to some extent.

To aid in surveillance, the latest buzz word in the world of technology is drones. Amazon, the leading online store, is even toying with the idea of delivering packages via drones.

A smart way to improve police patrols is to complement them with drones that can be sent ahead of the patrolling force, especially in dangerous areas and dark alleys.

This is just a small sample of some practical yet brilliant technology-enabled solutions that our government can consider applying in an attempt to move our Police Force from analogue to digital.

Mr Muritu is a chief information officer in the financial services industry ([email protected])

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