Kenfrey Kiberenge: The police in Britain understand aggression is not the only option...

 

Share

Kenfrey Kiberenge works for 'The Standard' newspaper in Nairobi.

He is winner of the David Astor Journalism Award 2012 and is on a fellowship programme with 'The Independent' in London.

Here he writes about his arrival in the UK from Nairobi and the different approach both nations have towards policing.

When I arrived at the Heathrow Airport in London, UK, for my fellowship with The Independent newspaper, I anticipated massive security checks.

I figured out that since in Nairobi I have to contend with an average of ten checks per day, then it was only reasonable to expect being frisked at every corner of London streets. Shock on me. This is my second week and I haven't encountered anything similar to Nairobi's checks.

That is not to say, though, that London is unprotected. For starters, this city has one of the best security systems in the world. The UK had nearly two million CCTV cameras as of last year, and their metal detectors can tell what's in your bag.

But a keen look at the metropolitan police reveals that most (I was told 95 per cent) are unarmed, which is a total contrast to our regular policemen who always have a gun.

They are often seen with their hands tucked in their jackets or disguisedly 'playing' with what I was told is a drug sniffer dog where there are crowds. And when need arises, they will use the power of persuasion as opposed to coercion. It is therefore common to see policemen on Saturday at midnight persuading revellers to enjoy responsibly.

Motorists caught flouting traffic rules are also not ordered to immediately “hand over your driving licences and step out of the car”.

Rather, a police van will brake nearby and the offending driver gently asked to drive off.

My prodding revealed that the police here generally know that aggression is not the only option available in handling lawbreakers, a virtue deficient among most Kenyan police.

But this does not mean that if you shipped the London metropolitan police to Nairobi they would achieve similar results with such ease.

To avoid a backlash, I will not say that most Nairobians become unruly and uncouth when they get tipsy.

And since I'm not a criminologist, I will also not attempt to analyse how the thugs roaming the streets of Nairobi would react if our policemen stopped carrying guns.

What I can confirm, though, is that the ongoing police reforms in Kenya are an effort in futility if they will not be complemented by a change in the behaviour of ordinary Kenyans.

Without a prefect, people in London honestly pay for their train tickets, stand on the right side of the escalator to allow walkers to use the left side and the word 'sorry' is the norm, rather than the exception, even where it's clear the apologiser is not at fault. In Nairobi, I can't recall the number of times people have muddied my shoes and rudely walked away after checking as if to confirm their actions.

As I was writing this article, I recalled that we had a new Constitution containing our ideals and beliefs that should have helped us reform. But like most of my compatriots, I could recall none. This shows our obsession with sexy laws rather than making people understand what is contained therein.

Sincerely, I am yet to grasp how - besides the cosmetic value - replacing Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere with a civilian, bearing a new title of Inspector General -in charge of a police service as opposed to a police force- will banish police bribery and reduce crime.

We must therefore strive to transform our value system, otherwise we will end up with fancy titles and brilliant pieces of legislation but no tangible changes.

Twitter: @KenKiberenge

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Team Leader

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Separate lives: Boston’s streets illustrate the divide between the town’s communities  

Migrants have far more to offer than hard work and wealth creation, yet too many exist in isolation from the rest of society

Emily Dugan
Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird has sold 40 million copies  

Go Set a Watchman: Harper Lee’s new novel is more than just a literary event

Joseph Charlton
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'