With the latest spate of police killings around Nairobi, the Kenya Police Service’s reputation for brutality is getting entrenched. Extra-judicial killings, for that is what they are, have no place in modern society.
It is the demand of the Constitution that police officers embrace professionalism, be accountable and respect the right to life, human rights and fundamental freedoms at all times, yet they have fallen short of meeting these dictates.
Too often, police officers kill individuals they claim are criminals, only for it to later emerge that the victims are law-abiding citizens.
Only last week, the police sensationally claimed they had shot Shimoli junior, a most wanted criminal and son of notorious criminal Edward Shimoli, who was killed by police several years ago, only for it to turn out that the victim was 16-year-old Arnold Okongo.
One wonders if the police are so incompetent that they cannot carry out credible investigations to avoid killing innocent people.
Was expending billions of shillings on revamping the police service worth it if its officers continue to behave and act in ways that put them at par with street thugs?
The police have killed 10 young men aged between 18 and 23 years in Dandora in just one week. Though they claim that the youths were criminals, the Okongo shooting and many such killings - mostly in Dandora - make it highly doubtful. Dead men tell no tales, so we shall never know their side of the story.
Early this year, some youths who were in uniform and were collecting garbage were gunned down in Kariobangi by police officers who claimed they were acting on a tip-off. It later turned out that this was another case of mistaken identity.
On Friday last week, police officers shot at a car, leading to the death of a woman. The car was targeted because it had been parked at City Park for an hour and had tinted windows. For how long must Kenyans lose their lives to trigger-happy police officers under the now abused guise of ‘mistaken identity’? Such unfortunate incidents underscore the urgent need to train police officers afresh to keep them in synch with constitutional changes and values that recognise the sanctity and right to life.
The law is clear and specific on the manner in which police officers should conduct themselves in the execution of their duties. Indiscriminate shooting of suspects is not one of them. The police should, in accordance with their training and legal requirements, arrest, not shoot, unarmed people who pose no threat to them or others.
Legally, a person is adjudged innocent until proven guilty by a court of law. By taking up the roles of accuser, judge and executioner, the police are denying victims their rights, usurping the role of the Judiciary, and thumbing their noses at the law.
Sadly, even after all these wanton killings and promises by top government officials that there would be investigations, nothing happens. The police, at worst, get transferred to other station to continue killing.
Clearly, this has to stop. The right to life as guaranteed by the Constitution has not been withdrawn. Police must get their act together and mend their tattered image in the eyes of the public and the international community.
It is a shame that we have a discredited police service completely out of tune with modern policing trends. Despite being faced with high rates of crime and law-breaking, the police, it seems, know nothing about the concept of smart policing, namely surveillance and intelligence gathering.
Often, our police officers love a scattergun approach in spite of its ineffectiveness. In better organised countries, the police are ahead of the game, knowing exactly who the troublemakers are and pre-empting criminal activities. What do we have here? An outwitted police service on the back foot; a force given to a reactive, rather than a preventive, strategy against crime.