Misfortunes visit not singly, but in droves. This must have rung true to the 18-year-old woman who was recently abducted, raped and luckily released by her tormenters after her employer failed to pay ransom.
As if this experience was not traumatic enough, she suffered further abuse in the hands of female police officers within the confines of a police station where she had gone to seek refuge and justice for her tribulations.
This is not an isolated case, but like many others, it is likely to be overshadowed by the ‘more important’ cases in a country that seems to be reeling from one crisis to another. Consider this, since January, hundreds of Kenyans have lost lives on our killer roads but this is yet to invite even an ounce of ire or concern palpable when the same tragedies befall the high and mighty.
This brings to the fore, once again, the question of police brutality among other misconducts and the urgent need to reform this rogue institution despite their continued resistance. Police brutality has been defined as the excessive use of force by an officer. This can be physical or verbal attacks, and psychological intimidation. Even countries that prosecute police violence have not been spared from this evil attesting to its pervasiveness.
In addition, false arrests, intimidation, political repression, surveillance abuse, sexual abuse and police corruption are some of the elements in the long list of police misconducts. Kenya police have consistently fared worse in corruption and human rights rankings by Amnesty International, the Kenya National Human Rights Commission and the Oscar Foundation.
What with extrajudicial executions, post-poll violence of 2008 where they maimed and killed innocent civilians, yet not even the ones caught on camera were convicted as inconclusive ballistic results were used to exonerate the culprits!
Question no more the public’s antipathy towards a police force that is the manifestation of impunity.
The widespread nature of this problem points to a systemic rather than a case of individual faults qualified under such banners as, behavioural, psychological, or background factors. Inefficiencies in internal accountability and internal investigations, the need to conform to certain ‘police culture’ for example, the unwritten code to protect their own from prosecution, and the unnecessary command and control structures which hamper ethical decision-making are some of the factors that appear to entrench police misconduct.
Granted, men and women in blue are legally allowed to use force when appropriate but this must be tempered with the precise assessment of the situation. It is imperative that the police shift from the traditional reaction-based or incident-driven policing models in which they merely respond to calls for service to a more sustainable problem-oriented policing model which is effective in handling community challenges.
The plan to construct the multimillion forensic labs was a move in the right direction but this failed to take off due to corruption.
Even suspects in police custody have a right to legal representation and should be interrogated in the presence of their lawyers and should not be coerced to own up to crimes they did not commit. The police should liaise with the Law Society of Kenya and the office of the Public Prosecutor to make this a reality as provided for in the Constitution.