By Don Victor Simon Gichuki
Over the past 10 years, the government has been toying with the idea of automating the Occurrence Book, more commonly known by its abbreviation, OB.
The Police Act Cap 84 (revised in 2010) states: “Every police officer in charge of a police station shall keep a record in such form as the commissioner may direct, and shall record therein all complaints and charges referred, the names of all persons arrested and the offences with which they are charged.”
The OB is under the custody of the officer commanding a police station (OCS), but is assigned a duty officer to, among other tasks, record criminal bookings and persons seeking justice. By law, a person under arrest in the police cells must be listed in the OB with the officer assigned listing the date and time of arrest, reasons for arrest and property confiscated from the suspects.
One may also report lost items, which is recorded in the OB.
According to South Africa Police Standing Orders, the OB is the most important of all the registers used in the service. It must contain a complete record of the history of a police station, besides serving as the control record of all other registers and the Crime Administration System (CAS).
The recent move by the Ministry of Interior, National Police Service Commission and the National Police Service to automate the OB is a key milestone towards ensuring sanity in the police stations. It is also a first step towards instant fines, bookings on the move and a standardized fine system for petty offenders.
The availability of a database with information of all Kenyans, the near-perfect information systems at Kenya Revenue Authority, Registrar of Companies, e-Citizen and, soon, the Ministry of Lands and the national financial system make the process all but near-perfect.
Automation will pave the way for better handling of petty crimes but this must go hand in hand with improved service by the police.
But in a society where police officers are deemed to be poorly educated, pathetic managers and bloodthirsty, coupled with a general hatred towards the mwananchi, the automated system will fail if the OB is not managed in a better way.
In civilized societies, it’s hard to have a person locked up in the cells for a crime only to have totally different charges read to them in court. The current status enables easy manipulation and I bet many Kenyans would bear me witness in this.
As Inspector-General of Police Joseph Boinnet and his crew push for the automated OB, there is no better time to revive spot fines. A minor traffic offence could lead to one losing days in the courts, a rogue police officer gets one year in jail on trumped-up charges, a petty offence by a first-time offender would be better managed.
Meanwhile, what happened to the instant fines project?