When 3,980 police recruits graduated at the Kenya Police College in Nyeri county earlier this month, the president was on hand to congratulate them. They were the first of 9,937 recruits to graduate this month.
“Today, it is my pleasure to point out that once we have added the recruits graduating today and once they enter the service, our ratio as a country will stand at 1 [police officer] to 380 [Kenyans],” President Uhuru Kenyatta said.
He added that his government has been working hard to “achieve the United Nations’ recommended benchmark ratio of one policeman or woman to every 450 civilians”.
But the president is wrong on at least two counts. In a fact-check last month, we found that Kenya had 90,442 police officers at the end of June 2016. The newly-graduated officers would therefore take the total to 94,442.
(Note: In January, the president claimed that Kenya then had 98,732 police officers. We asked the inspector-general of police, Joseph Boinnet, to clarify these numbers and he promised to respond, but so far hasn’t. We will update this report if he does.)
Using the National Bureau of Statistics most recent estimate of a population of 44.2 million people in 2015 means that Kenya has one police officer for every 468 people. Even if we use the president’s number of police, the ratio comes to 1:430.
Senior researcher for Amnesty International, Abdullahi Boru, reckons that the president was using Kenya’s 2009 population estimate of 38.6 million people to work out the police to civilian ratio.
Furthermore, Kenya’s Administrative Police and the people working in the police’s Directorate of Criminal Investigation are excluded from the UN’s definition of police personnel. Using only the number of Kenya National Police members in June 2016 the ratio shoots up to 1:989.
No evidence UN recommends a 1:450 ratio
Africa Check was also unable to find proof that the UN has ever recommended a ratio of 1:450. It seems to date back to the United States’ policing of occupied Germany in 1945 when one American policeman oversaw 450 German civilians.
A senior research fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, Dr Godwin Murunga, said the emphasis on the ratio without context “does not add value to the security” debate.
“If you speak about the ratio, we must know what’s the nature of training of the police; how vast is the territory of deployment; the calibre of the police officers and the resources available to them,” Murunga, who comments on security issues, told Africa Check.
Police officers’ welfare, such as being housed and adequately equipped, is also important, he said.
“Even as you train people, you have to plan on where they will stay… but the government has really tried,” he said. – Alphonce Shiundu (09/03/2017)