By Waheid Siraach
Saturday September 24, 2022
police officer's role in society is to maintain public order and safety by
protecting members of the public and their property, enforcing laws,
preventing, reducing, and investigating crimes, and improving citizens' quality
this is not the case with the Somali Police Force (SPF), and the threat to
social order hangs perilously in the balance while the country pays the
must submit that there have been efforts to repair and rebuild the police
department by new Somali governments with the support of international donors.
Yet, the SPF remains disorganized, disjointed, archaic, and ineffective. This
is partly due to an overarching lack of leadership within the police force. And
while the SPF has undergone several leadership changes in the past decade, they
were primarily inexperienced and underprepared to effect meaningful changes on
vital critical issues on safety, security, and reform.
indeed plague the SPF; among them, the vast majority of the approximately ten
thousand personnel are heavily concentrated in the nation's capital, and the
presence of the SPF (a federal entity) is virtually nonexistent outside the
nation's capital city. And even in Mogadishu, the department often engages in
non-police work while providing minimal police services to the citizens who
require them, which begs the question if the agency understands its legal
result of this ambiguity, Mogadishu often falls victim to violent crimes and
terrorist attacks, including the most recent assault at Hayat Hotel on August
20, killing 20 people and injuring a dozen others, another indication that the
department lacks a sound policing strategy necessary to combat the terrorism.
important to note that the department operates under the outdated Somali Police
Act of 1972, an Act that went into effect when the country had one central
government and operated under military rule. With the nation embracing
federalism, the Act is no longer practical and requires revision. And while the
New Policing Model Agreement signed by Federal Government and the Member States
does define two distinct policing levels (state and federal), it fails to
identify these departments' roles and responsibilities, a clear and present
also struggles with insufficient policies and procedures. As such, police
forces are operating without procedural direction or guidance. Officers' daily
responsibilities are ambiguous, and even the highest-ranking officers are
forced to navigate within a vague and, at times, nonexistent work structure.
type of ambiguousness allows department superiors to operate as they please,
with little oversight and almost no accountability. And department officers
follow their lead. Approximately one-third of the department's personnel engage
in outside 24/7 private security details for current and former government
workers and other individuals with government ties to supplement their income.
of the force work full-time in units with no policing requirements at all (for
instance, Qaybta Dhimaha or Gaadiidka). Some sworn federal police
officers work as performers (Fanaaniinta Qooxda Heegan) while being paid
by the SPF. The primary duties of others include preparing tea for their
superior officers rather than performing actual and necessary police work. And
in the instance that an SPF officer might be assigned to a station, duties are
typically limited to manning checkpoints in hopes of locating Al-Shabaab.
Criminal Investigation Division (the nation's highest investigative body) is
primarily tasked with issuing police clearance letters and performs little or
no actual police investigations.
Police maintenance department
are just a few issues that have hampered the SPF's operational capacity and
capability and destroyed the institution's public trust. And with legal and
leadership problems constraining the force, the department struggles to provide
essential police services to the citizens.
perhaps time-consuming, the solutions are certainly not beyond the realm of
possibilities. To become an effective and efficient federal law enforcement
agency, the SPF requires bold and innovative leadership with deep policing
knowledge and a clear vision. The department requires a new Police Act that
clearly defines its legal authority, jurisdiction, and code of conduct.
Knowledgeable police leadership can work with appropriate governmental
ministries and parliamentary leaders to establish a forward-thinking direction
and a structural purpose.
of the police force must prioritize their policing duties over any personal
security details or other unnecessary and unessential assignments. In addition,
the SPF must create a reliable training and professional development system,
and police officers must be fully dedicated to the roles and responsibilities
of the position.
must clearly define its officers' job descriptions, including the expectations
of each employee on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly basis.
Perhaps most importantly, officers must work directly in the communities where
they can make the most impact. Foot patrols, community safety meetings, and
awareness programs will be integral to regaining the level of community trust that
has been missing for far too long, as well as improving the overall welfare of
favoritism, illegal use of force, and other unethical practices can damage
relationships between police and their communities. The department should avoid
such behaviors and establish policies to ensure impartiality and good judgment.
And when incidents occur, the agency must be transparent with the public and
provide any relevant information that the public needs to know.
corrective actions outlined above are attainable once a leadership hierarchy is
established and a legal framework is defined. These steps will go a long way
towards regaining community trust and offering hope for the future of policing
in Somalia. There is no better time to act than now as the military continues
to liberate more regions that will require policing services. We are at a
pivotal time in Somali law enforcement history, and our next police leaders
have an opportunity to course-correct and set a new path.
Siraach is a former Police Seargent in Minnesota. He traveled to Somalia and
assisted the Somali Police Force (SPF) for a year while on sabbatical leave. He
currently maintains a residence in Mogadishu and closely follows the
development of the Somali police.