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Trigger-happy police officers should be held accountable

By The Standard | Published Fri, December 1st 2017 at 00:00, Updated November 30th 2017 at 20:02 GMT +3

The latest cases of suspected police killings include that of seven-year-old Geoffrey Mutinda, whose life was snuffed by a bullet while innocently playing on the balcony of their rental house in Pipeline Estate, Nairobi, on Tuesday this week.

It is a story similar to that of ten-year-old Stephanie Moraa, killed while playing on the balcony of her home in Mathare North.

Before that, there was the sad story of six-month-old baby Samantha Pendo, who succumbed to injuries inflicted by a policeman’s truncheon. An investigation launched by the Independent Policing Oversight Authority returned the verdict that the police were responsible for their deaths.

A recent autopsy done on several bodies taken to the City Mortuary after the skirmishes that rocked parts of Nairobi when an Opposition welcoming rally for Raila on his return from the US two weeks ago was violently dispersed by the police revealed 13 of the dead had gunshot wounds that were blamed on the police.

While dispersing Opposition supporters, who had gathered to attend a prayer rally for their departed colleagues at the Jacaranda Gardens on Tuesday, police officers used excessive force. Some of them were photographed mercilessly clubbing women cowering in a shed where they had sought refuge. One of them was quite elderly and frail.

The question then arises; in dealing with a largely noisy and unarmed crowd, what justification is there for the police to use live bullets when they have rubber bullets and tear gas?

The National Police Act 2011 permits the use of excessive force in situations where the life of a policeman is threatened, or when a criminal is escaping from custody. Even then, a warning must be given first. In all the cases so far catalogued, the police have not proven that this was the case anywhere.

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Senior police officers, however, have continued to deny police involvement in the said deaths, yet are at pains to tell Kenyans who the culprits are or apprehend them.

We cannot afford to have a police service that is not only rogue, but partisan as has been observed over the last few months. A time has come when individual responsibility must be assigned to trigger-happy police officers to assuage the public.

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