New police spokesperson Bruno Isohi Shioso opens up on the operation in Laikipia, what the service is doing to stop violence as the General Election approaches, why women are no longer being hired by the General Service Unit, the challenge of murder and suicide among officers and many other issues.
Mr Charles Wahongo Owino was a familiar face with most Kenyans for many years as the National Police Service (NPS) Director of Corporate Communications, a role that has been given to Mr Shioso, who recently spoke to Daily Nation journalist STELLA CHERONO.
You recently joined the NPS as the Director of Communication. Where were you before that?
I had worked with the NPS and the UN. I have had the greatest service at the DCI in many capacities. These range from being a criminal court prosecutor, a fraud investigator, a DCIO, a PA to two DCI directors, a deputy director at Banking Fraud Investigation Department of the CBK and a CCIO (county DCI chief) before moving to the UN in New York to take up a three-year contract as a transnational organised crime expert. After my contract, I requested for annual leave only to be recalled shortly by the IG to take up the current assignment.
Who is Bruno Isohi Shioso?
I am an average officer with a penchant for justice. I have had high and low moments but I focus on my best as I learn from the lows. I have had the privilege to work with smart officers.
What strategy are you bringing to the service and what is your greatest strength?
I want to be a leader of a strong professional and competent communications team motivated to shape the NPS corporate image and articulate the vision of the IG to the public. I intend to be forthright with Kenyans through timely information sharing, and play a role in educating them on who the police are and what policing is. We need to operate from the same baseline with the public. I would also want to be a student of the public expectation in order to communicate effectively internally. This is the only way to improve on the trust deficiency between police and the public. Finally, I want to hail my predecessors who worked tirelessly in shaping and mainstreaming the NPS corporate communication.
My strength is working with teams. I endeavour to build coalitions with the media, colleagues and the public.
You join the NPS at a time officers are being blamed for disappearances, arbitrary arrests and executions. What will you do differently to ensure public confidence is restored?
We take disappearances and the others like any other crime. The NPS investigates allegations based on evidence. If there are claims of police complicity, let them be forwarded to the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa). Police are law enforcers, not law breakers. Those who break the law account for it in individual capacity.
When the Directorate of Command, Control and Communication (IC3) was launched, Kenyans hoped it would bring to an end or reduce muggings, abductions and highway robberies. Lately, investigations into these have been hitting dead ends. Is the IC3 working? Is there a communication problem?
The IC3 is a game-changer, especially in Nairobi and Mombasa. It is a smart policing model. Since deployment, we have registered more efficiency. We have adopted a proactive posture that informs our planning and operational capabilities. IC3 greatly aids our investigations. It is hard to quantify the efficacy of IC3 ordinarily since people measure police outcomes in terms of metrics, yet the real measurement is not on the number of cases detected but on crime prevention. That is a tricky measure. Police have the sixth sense of knowing when an intervention is working.
As with any new solution on the market, there is always the learning curve. We shall perfect the system.
Do the face-recognition features work? Why have the killers of Jacob Juma, Chris Musando, George Muchai and many others not been apprehended?
Murder is one of the most difficult crimes to investigate conclusively. Perpetrators plan meticulously in advance. Forensic science is only part of the solution. When we talk of DNA and face recognition, for instance, we must first have a database as a baseline just as we have for fingerprints. Without a DNA database and face biometrics, against what baseline shall the police make comparisons?
This is why we need to interact with Kenyans to educate them on police capabilities and limitations.
Interior Cabinet Secretary, Fred Matiang’i, directed the NPS and regional commanders to facilitate the voluntary surrender of firearms in Laikipia. Is this also applicable to bandits? How many guns have been surrendered in the operation zone and the neighbouring counties of Baringo, Samburu and Isiolo?
Amnesty is one of the solutions in Laikipia. The Laikipia issue is being looked at holistically. There is a need for sustainable solutions on the grazing conflict and banditry within the larger region to be conclusively sorted. It is a region with great potential. Guns should only be in the hands of security agents and those licensed.
What is the security plan ahead of the 2022 elections? Already some counties have been identified as possible hotspots.
NPS security preparations are in high gear. We are working with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) as the principal and other stakeholders. It is a role taken very seriously in the NPS calendar of events. Hotspot-mapping is key to police operations, especially elections. Predictive policing helps in planning, including smart deployment of resources and assets.
There is a resurgence of criminal gangs in areas identified as hotspots. What are the concerns to the NPS since many youth in slums are vulnerable?
We deal with resurgence whenever it rears its head. NPS has a zero-tolerance on criminal gangs and violence. Young people are misused when they should be engaged in economic undertakings. They need to know the dangers of gang life.
Terrorist attacks have been foiled in the Coast and parts of Northeastern Kenya. Should we be worried? Are such incidents linked to the 2022 elections?
It shows our counter-terrorism strategy is working. Kenya is a good example on how to fight terrorism. We have a robust regime, starting with good laws, policy environment and enforcement. There is also vigil and a resilient population. NPS is mainstreaming community policing to augment existing counter-terrorism measures. In short, our counterterrorism infrastructure is taking care of Kenyans. Many countries and law enforcement agencies learn from us.
In your short stint as NPS spokesman, you have been scrutinised in how you relay crucial information. A point of concern is when you referred to a journalist as “a mere blogger” despite her being registered with the Media Council of Kenya. Should journalists be concerned about the perceived antagonism?
Thank you for bringing up the issue, which arose from the Laikipia coverage. I didn’t refer to anyone as a “mere blogger” but I alluded to “a blogger”. This, I understand, did not go well with many journalists. I even had a candid discussion with the Media Council after the said journalist apparently complained. The reference wasn’t derogatory. In fact, blogging is part of the mainstream media. Any journalist can choose to be a blogger. Blogging is simply any form of online publishing under a person’s name. I based my blogger reference on the content that appeared online under her credit. I only learnt later that she works for a media house and look forward to working with her.
My reference was not the substantive issue I raised then. My concern was articulated in the press statement, and it was not responded to. Otherwise there was no ill intention or antagonism of the very resource I should work with to achieve my primary objective.
What is your take on the involvement of women in security as provided for by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325?
This is one of my pet subjects on policing. I am a believer in affirmative action. Women can be game-changers regarding transformative policing, especially in opening up new areas of cooperation. They are more altruistic, understanding, patient and emotionally intelligent. They can play a better role in bridging the gap with the public by being good listeners. The NPS is affirmative action-compliant. It might take some time to realise parity but we are working towards that end.
Lately, the General Service Unit has been hiring men only. Why is that so?
There is no policy discriminating against females from joining GSU. The NPS, including GSU, is an equal opportunity employer.
What is the NPS doing to address suicides and murders in the force?
For the first time, NPS has come up with a long-lasting intervention of a counselling and chaplaincy structure to attend to officers’ psychological needs. NPS has also partnered with Chiromo Hospitals, the Red Cross and many other players to this. This is a critical area of intervention since police work is a predictor of stress. Other areas of intervention are a focus on staff welfare and a shift in the HR practices.
A task force to look into the mental health of officers was formed in 2017. What were its findings and how is the NPS addressing this issue?
Being new, I will need time to get to the details of the findings. I like being accurate with information.
Police officers have been blamed for dumping bodies at mortuaries and poor investigations in identifying the dead, yet the Registrar of Persons has a robust database accessible to the police. What is the NPS’ plan on this?
Unfortunately, every blame is heaped on the police, despite their best intentions. Even when they go through the rigours of collecting bodies, some mutilated, they are still accused of dumping them! Unless the public gets to understand the trouble police officers go through, we will always complain.
Ipoa has in the past blamed the NPS for cover-up, especially on investigations into crimes believed to be perpetrated by police officers. Do police deliberately mess with the investigations to protect their own?
I don’t think Ipoa can blame the police for covering up for colleagues. The agency has the ultimate mandate and authority of investigating police. If Ipoa has evidence of cover-ups, that is more culpability for those complicit. But I have never heard of that. All I know is that IPOA and NPS collaborate on issues of police misbehaviour and excesses.