Publication Date
February 1, 2008

"The adoption of a CBP approach provided the vehicle for a police reform agenda which would be based on partnership, shared responsibility, greater transparency and accountability."


This 36-page report describes the experience and lessons learned from implementing a democratic style of policing in Kenya called community-based policing (CBP) that brings together the police, civil society, and communities to find local solutions to community safety concerns. Specifically, it explores the United Kingdom (UK)-based organisation Saferworld's approach to CBP, which places local communities at the centre and provides specific responses to local community needs, expectations, and cultures. Produced with the financial assistance of the UK Government's Global Conflict Prevention Pool and the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), this report is designed to deepen understanding of the CBP approach and to provide guidance as to how it can be undertaken.


CBP is both a philosophy and an organisational strategy that involves the public identifying the security challenges they face and working with the police and other stakeholders to deal with them. From Saferworld's perspective, CBP: (i) makes safety and security everybody's responsibility; (ii) enables the community to have a say in safety and security issues as they understand the issue; (iii) maximises resources within the community through shared responsibility and joint efforts; (iv) improves police accountability to the community by providing mechanisms for addressing complaints; (v) mobilises the community to address pertinent issues beyond their immediate security; (vi) contributes enhanced economic development; (vii) encourages networking, constructive social relations, and greater cohesion within the community; and (viii) improves trust and confidence between the community and the police.


According to Saferworld, "[s]ocial inequalities, the availability of small arms, inadequate police capacity, and distrust between the police and communities all fuel Kenya's high levels of crime and insecurity....Efforts by civil society and donors to engage the Moi Government in discussions on police reform had been ongoing for years without much success." When the new government took power in 2003, a national consultation was undertaken to find out more about security and safety concerns of its citizens. The consultation concluded that communities were willing to support the police and wished to be more involved in their own policing. It became clear that a fundamental transformation of the culture and attitudes of the police was required. The Government of Kenya asked Saferworld to support the police reform agenda. In brief, the process involved:

  • Working with the Office of the President, the Kenya Police Training College, Kenya Institute of Administration, the Administration Police Training College, various civil society organisations (CSOs), and residents of CBP pilot sites, Saferworld developed a curriculum for training in CBP in locally appropriate languages. Launched in February 2004, the curriculum has modules that include an introduction to CBP, legal framework and human rights, society and CBP, strategic management, crime prevention and reduction, and partnership policing. Joint training of civil society representatives alongside Kenya Police and Administration Police officers conducted by both civilian and police trainers was found to help remove barriers and increase trust. There is also solid evidence from feedback sessions that trainings resulted in positive changes in the knowledge and attitude of a significant number of trainees.
  • Saferworld and PeaceNet worked with the Office of the President and the Task Force to ensure that the national community policing policy reflected CBP principles and national and international "best practice", encouraged the process of developing the policy, and promoted dialogue between the government and other stakeholders. In addition, Saferworld helped develop and produce a handbook to raise awareness amongst communities about CBP and provide them with clear and simple guidelines of how to implement CBP at the local level. Saferworld also partnered with the provincial administration to develop a citizen handbook for community policing whose aim is to sensitise citizens and create public awareness on guidelines for implementing community policing.
  • Both the Administration Police and Kenya Police were required to produce 5-year strategic development plans. Saferworld provided CBP training and advised heads of departments responsible for planning and training; in June 2005, a further 30 Kenya Police officers were trained on development of work plans based on their strategic plan. Saferworld also provided technical expertise and support for the Administration Police. This involved a range of stakeholders and community representatives in a process of consultation and participation. Following training in strategic planning, both organisations developed institutional development plans that articulated improved service delivery to Kenyan citizens as their core goals and used open consultations.


Having laid this groundwork, Saferworld and Kenyan civil society partners implemented CBP in 2 sites. The type of activities carried out in each site has varied but has included: training and awareness-raising on CBP for police officers and communities, the establishment of Community Safety and Information Centres, support for practical projects, and anonymous information "drop-in" boxes (Toa Habari kwa Polisi) to facilitate information exchange on community safety issues.


Specifically, in Kibera, consultations with the local community (including members from the business community, religious leaders, tenants, and landlords) and local police produced a detailed analysis of the factors fuelling crime and insecurity in the area. The CBP programme responded to these factors through activities including: consultations with members of the community, civil society, and police; setting up a taskforce and a 20-member steering committee; training to equip the steering committee and communities with an understanding of the principles and practice of CBP; a joint police-community forum; and a police open day and medical camp where police provided free medical check-ups and other services to help build trust and give communities and police an opportunity to interact.


"One of the most important factors contributing to the success of the CBP approach in Kibera has been the degree to which stakeholders worked together to generate a shared sense of ownership and commitment by the whole community throughout the programme." The sharing of information between communities and police officers - e.g., through information boxes - has reportedly helped police take action to prevent crime and insecurity. Training has been central to this and was made more effective by being led by people within the community and by presenting the information in a lively, easy-to-understand way. The trainers have worked with local theatre groups to stage dramas raising awareness of the CBP and its potential benefit for the community; the involvement of young people has been central here. "Monitoring by PeaceNet and Saferworld shows that many residents now feel more comfortable approaching police officers in confidence and have more faith they will receive support. Police officers interviewed feel better equipped for crime prevention because they have the support of the community behind them."


In Isiolo, community members in Bulla-Pesa were trained on the principles and practice of CBP. Residents participate in community safety forums every month or through weekly barazas (open forums) that provide an opportunity to raise specific security and safety concerns with local government and security agencies and to generate joint solutions.


Improved partnership, communication, and interaction between communities and police have led to achievements, including: an increase in the number of incidents reported to the police and dealt with; more people handing over illegal small arms through a process managed by community representatives who transfer the guns to Kenya Police officers for safekeeping and destruction; awareness-raising activities and joint training activities; the opening of a customer care office in Isiolo so that people can access information relating to their security needs; joint patrol activities undertaken by members of the community and the police; initiatives to get young people involved in CBP; re-opening of 16 schools that had been forced to close down due to insecurity; re-opening of businesses that had closed down or relocated due to insecurity; flourishing tourism (now that insecurity is no longer a deterrent to visiting the area); and engagement of communities in the design of development projects, such as water tanks for primary schools, and boreholes and bridges for the community.


Lessons learned:

  1. It is important to link initiatives at the national and community levels. For example, the experiences of CBP implementation at the pilot sites have informed the process of developing the Kenyan Government's national community policing policy by providing appropriate methodologies and grassroots structures drawn from the communities.
  2. Build the capacity for reform by, for example, coaching and training for senior managers in the police services. The outcome has been leadership and ownership of the reform agenda, which is helping to make the police services more transparent, adaptable, participative, and consultative.
  3. A sector-wide approach to security and justice development is important.
  4. The continued involvement of all stakeholders in the design of the CBP programme has contributed significantly to local ownership and support. This reflects the adoption of democratic principles and practices, which is a key component of the CBP approach.
  5. CSOs can play a critical and central role in security sector reform. Local CSOs such as PeaceNet have played a vital role in conducting training, advising on the development of the national policy, supporting implementation at the pilot sites, and encouraging the government to implement police reform. Within pilot sites, CSOs have played a leading role in mobilising residents and in designing and implementing community safety projects.
  6. The police must be accountable to the law and to the public through independent mechanisms such as CBP forums, joint trainings with communities, and the development of 5-year strategic plans.
  7. Partnerships between local organisations and the police were essential to addressing widespread distrust between police and local communities. Approaches such as training police and community leaders together, alongside having police and community leaders train each other, have helped to strengthen these partnerships.
  8. Crime prevention is a fundamental principle of the CBP model developed in Kenya. Prevention, in its broadest sense, means emphasising the social health and cohesion of communities.
  9. Do not underestimate the length of time needed for a reform programme. The process of building trust and developing partnerships also took considerably longer than originally expected.

Saferworld website and Comunidad Segura portal - both accessed on March 29 2010.