Demilitarize the Police

Ideally, a police force should not be armed. For who do they need to protect themselves from? The very citizens whom they are sworn to protect? However, this is not such a world and we have multitudes of people walking about with nefarious intentions on their mental. To protect against such evil humans, psychopaths, murderers, thieves, and plenty more, it is assumed that a police force should be adequately and amply armed so as to protect the good citizens from the evil ones. And thus, we live in a time where government sees it fit to increasingly militarize the police, even introducing equipment and machinery previously thought to be the preserve of a country’s armed forces.

This is hardly just a Kenyan phenomenon. Closer home, our neighbors in Uganda and Burundi for example have experienced the same phenomenon. In the United States, the enhanced powers of police and increasing militarization of various agencies has been an ongoing phenomenon since the commencement of the war on drugs, and more recently, following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The problem with police militarization is that it is largely assumed that the levels of crime in a region or country are an indication of how effective the law enforcement agencies are. And therefore, with every increase in crime or social unrest, there are calls to better equip and arm the police to enable them carry out their duties better. This perception is fundamentally flawed however. Crime is a social construct, and it demonstrates the health of a society. A society riddled with crime is an unhealthy society. The ill health refers to issues such as hunger, poverty, unemployment, wide socio-economic divides, moral decay amongst others. Some of these factors are weightier that others, for instance, one would be more prone to crime because of hunger as opposed to unemployment. Unemployment is hardly an issue when one is healthy, and free of hunger and poverty.

What do we need to do? First of all, halt the militarization process. It is already excessive as it is, and no further enhancements should be made in this regard. Instead, a radical approach at addressing crime should be implemented. The most basic step that can be made in tackling crime is eradication of hunger. It is quite simple to achieve this, but then again, it is easier said than done. Kenya as it currently is can feed all its citizens. This fact extends to the world as a whole. Globally, we have enough food to feed each and every individual but we have a situation where 1 billion people are overfed while 1 billion people are underfed. Ensure every Kenyan citizen does not sleep hungry and people will be less motivated to rob and steal.

Beyond this, poverty is also a significant contributor to crime. Many suggestions have been made as to how to eradicate poverty and most of these are beyond the purview of this article. One recent suggestion that has gained a lot of ground is the Universal Basic Income, a revolutionary idea, but not without its cons. Another major contributor to crime is moral decay, and for this, we can only look to the children, and hope that they will grow up with better ideals than those we have been exposed to, and which we readily espouse.

Once significant crime reduction has been achieved, demilitarization of the police can be conducted in full force. The police force is akin to a customer service agent in a bank. Their duty is serve, guide, facilitate. That security personnel guarding the bank is the country’s military, not its police force.

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