Digital OB to ease policing

What you need to know:

  • If there is any part of police operations that has remained stuck in the past, it is the OB.

The Occurrence Book (OB) is the nerve centre of the operations at every police station. It’s the almost complete record of reports of incidents, crimes, complaints and a sort of inventory of all the suspects and the accusations against them. Being at a central place, it ensures transparency in record-keeping as, by its public location, it is not easy to hide it and sneak in own things.

But it’s not foolproof and has been abused by crooked officers to subvert the cause of justice. At times records go missing or the entire book is stolen.

However, if there is any part of police operations that has remained stuck in the past, it is the OB.

The huge notebook has been at police stations for hundreds of years, with the manual entry of information using a Biro pen. The police station would be terribly handicapped without the OB.

To make policing more efficient and effective, reforms have been initiated in recent years. The new name, National Police Service, was part that. It is no longer the police “force”, whose hallmark was brutal, strong-arm tactics to ensure law and order, but a service that protects the people from criminals.

It is, therefore, noteworthy that reforms are now targeting a key tool in the work of the law enforcement officers.

This is the digitisation of the OB, which has been long overdue. Interestingly, it is not just meant to ease record keeping of all the reports made to police stations, but is also intended to help fight police corruption. Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai believes that digitising operations is a means of fighting corruption. This technology will enable senior police officers to monitor every report that is entered in real time and the actions taken. The pilot begins in Nairobi police stations.

One question that arises is whether the officers have been adequately trained to operate this high-tech system. There are also logistical problems, like availability of electricity in remote areas.

Also, as this milestone is celebrated, we must never forget that there are devious characters who will hack such systems for their illicit designs. Overall, the digitisation should enhance policing through efficient, secure record-keeping.