Japhet Koome, Inspector General of the National Police Service (NPS), recently accused the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) of being 'busybodies' whose work prevented police from protecting Kenyans. Kithure Kindiki, Cabinet Secretary for Interior and National Coordination was present when he made this statement.
On the same day, one of the police officers convicted of murdering lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwendwa and their taxi driver Joseph Muiruri begged the court for leniency and asked for forgiveness from the victims' families for abducting, torturing and killing their loved ones. Convicted officers Fredrick Leliman and Leonard Mwangi were also charged with murdering Peter Mutua in 2016. This is significant. Families of the victims would not have justice without the IPOA and the 2010 constitution's emphasis on police accountability.
According to many, the attack on the IPOA is a ploy to prevent it from holding police officers accountable for their actions, as required by law and constitutional mandate. In reality, it is an attempt to return Kenya to a time when police officers could do whatever they liked without fear of repercussions.
There have been whispers of disquiet within the police ranks following President William Ruto's public announcement months ago that extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances would end. It coincided with rumours of a "go-slow" and increased crimes such as muggings, often captured on CCTV and cell phone footage and shared on social media.
IG, police officers, and all government institutions are accountable to the Kenyan people and the Constitution. The oversight of the Kenyan police has helped the service to adhere to the law and to respect people's rights. Investigations and complaints under the IPOA are limited to unlawful policing. This makes them an asset rather than a hindrance to policing, as has been wrongly alleged. There were thousands of complaints against police officers, but only 500 merited prosecution recommendations, according to IPOA. Currently, there are about 300 active cases against police officers, who number more than 100,000.
Koome’s words are shocking because he publicly committed to working with IPOA to inculcate police accountability during his recent public vetting. An affidavit filed as part of public participation by a member of the public alleged that he had a record of non-co-operation with IPOA.
Under certain circumstances, such as self-defence and in defence of others, officers may use force and firearms, including lethal force. When an officer is injured or killed in the line of duty, it is a tragedy.
In light of the nature of police work, there should be more effort to equip them and to provide health and life insurance for them. They are, however, subject to the law and IPOA's oversight regarding their individual and command responsibilities.
It is imperative that the IG withdraws his statement and commits to co-operating with the IPOA. Convictions and investigations over the killing of Willie Kimani and his companions, Kianjakoma brothers, Evans Njoroge, Yasin Juma, Baby Pendo, Carilton Maina and Samantha Moraa prove rogue police officers exist and need to be investigated and prosecuted.
The IG should be the last person to appear to disregard the law or the Constitution as the commander of the NPS. In accordance with the law, the IPOA is tasked with investigating complaints against the police and all deaths and serious injuries caused by the police.
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Kenya can be kept secure by the police within the confines of the law. Police reforms has cost billions of shillings in order to move away from its colonial and regime protection roots.