Extra-judicial killings have no place in a democratic society

On Wednesday, the Independent Police Oversight Authority (Ipoa) released a report which revealed that cases of abuse of power by police officers had increased.

The same day, The Standard journalists were busy working on a chilling story of a suspect who was shot dead in Makueni two days after being arrested by police.

Titled End-Line Survey 2019 and conducted in 36 counties, the survey shows an increase in abuse of power cases from 30.4 per cent in 2013 to 46.2 this year. This is a worrying trend that must be reversed.

Kenyans expected a lot after the police force transitioned to a police service in 2011 when reforms geared towards making the service professional and more people-friendly were rolled out.

Better remuneration and housing, long considered triggers of low morale among police officers, have been provided. The expectation was that this would motivate officers to give their best in a firm, yet humane manner. But as matters stand today, that was expecting too much.

As a pointer to the heightened level of extra-judicial killings, police officers killed 12 men in Mathare, Nairobi, in the space of three days in November 2018. In May the same year, police killed 10 people in Dandora, Nairobi.

Earlier, the same year, police officers killed some youths engaged in garbage collection at the Kariobangi dumpsite despite the victims being unarmed. In all the cases, police claimed to have killed criminals, yet unless there is evidence the lives of the officers were in danger, the law envisages arrest and prosecution of suspect, not killings.

A suspect remains innocent until a court of law proves the opposite. Unfortunately, rogue police officers have become the judge, jury and executioner.

Ipoa, the citizen’s defence against police excesses, has been less than effective. It has not been able to enforce discipline within the police service. Those involved in extra-judicial killings are rarely punished and cases of bank robberies masterminded by police officers have been on the rise in the past few months. That signals an alarming breakdown of law and order among officers whose business is to end crime.

To allow police to go scotfree after killing suspects is to make a mockery of our Constitution. Police should never again be allowed to get away with murder.

Inspector General of Police Hilary Mutyambai should put his house in order.