Kenya: Laxity, Abuse of Office Tops Police Complaints

Police officers (file photo).
28 January 2020

Cases of police laxity, abuse of office, physical assault and harassment are the leading nature of complaints reported against law enforcement officers.

This is according to data from the latest report released by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) which showed that Nairobi and Mombasa were the regions with the highest number of complaints while Nakuru and Kakamega logged the least.

The review, covering the period between January and June 2019, also lists complaints made by members of the public over wrongful detention, extortion, injuries from shooting and death in police custody as rampant.

In the six months, IPOA received over 1,000 complaints against security officers.

Of these, 586 complaints were about police neglecting duty, 286 of police involvement in unethical practices, and 163 of physical assault and harassment.

The oversight body also received reports of 54 cases of death as a result of police inaction, 41 threats to life, 37 cases of malicious detention, 25 cases of officers shooting and causing injuries to civilians and seven cases of forced disappearance.

IPOA, however, notes that the numbers would be higher if more victims of police brutality overcame their fear of victimisation and reported matters as soon as they happened.

A number of past victims of police brutality are, however, of the opinion that reporting an officer to IPOA does not result in their immediate dismissal from the service, which then offers the aggressor an opportunity to interfere with witnesses.

INVESTIGATIONS

The oversight body says that in the period under review, it had conducted 390 investigations against police officers, with 36 of these being forwarded to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP). Most of these involved death and assault caused by officers.

At 390, the number of cases investigated vis a vis complaints filed means less than 50 percent of these complaints were looked into.

In its defence, IPOA notes that it is only mandated to investigate and make prosecution recommendations on the appropriate cause of action to the ODPP and the National Police Service Commission (NPSC) -- the body mandated with the role of disciplining errant police officers.

"However, after preliminary investigations have established that an officer has a case to answer, we immediately write to the NPSC requesting certain actions to be taken so that the officers do not, in any way, interfere with investigations or the due court process," says commissioner Doreen Muthaura.

Despite the challenge of victims' fear of victimisation, IPOA has encouraged more victims, including journalists assaulted in the course of duty, to report their cases to them.

SOCIAL MEDIA

However, to help bridge that gap, IPOA says it follows up on cases highlighted through traditional and social media for action.

Some of them include the shooting and killing of Baby Duncan Githinji at Kahawa West by a rogue officer on September 13 last year, the killing of Inspector Benson Indeje on September 5 allegedly by officers from Muthangari police station at Congo, Kawangware, in Nairobi, and the assault on Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) students by police on September 11 last year.

The public outcry over police brutality spread to this year with the shooting and killing of 17-year-old Stephen Machurusi on January 15 during the Kasarani protests, and that of 24-year-old Ahmed Majid in Majengo a day after.

A day after the killing of Mr Majid, Majengo residents held protests to condemn police for the incident but, once again, they shot and injured seven-year-old Destiny Mumo.

The child was shot at while playing with her friends at the NECI educational centre grounds.

"IPOA firmly reminds all police officers that the use of force and firearms must be in accordance with the law and that force must apply only as a last resort and in accordance with the Service Standing Orders, NPS Act of 2011 and in compliance with international laws," IPOA chairperson Anne Makori said.

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