Another reminder that police officers are not above the law

Police officer Fredrick ole Leliman. He sentenced to death for the murder of lawyer Willie Kimani, Josephat Mwenda and Joseph Muiruri. [File, Standard]

Justice Jessie Lessit delivered a death sentence judgment in the case involving the murder of, among others human rights lawyer Willie Kimani, who was gruesomely murdered by a police officer. According to Justice Lessit, the murders were premeditated and the victims were brutally tortured and killed. 

Kimani’s killing no doubt exposed the many extrajudicial killings and disappearances that have been occasioned by some members of the Kenyan police. Surprisingly, several years down the line after the country’s Police Force rebranded to the Kenya Police Service, there is little to show for the name change. Instead, the Police Service has been marred by cases of rogue police officers terrorising the very people who have employed them and pay their salaries.

Kimani was murdered by Fredrick Ole Leliman to settle a personal vendetta against the advocate’s client, who had in 2015 reported the police officer to Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) for shooting him in the arm for a traffic infraction. Leliman became apprehensive that his investigation by IPOA would lead to loss of job. To stop this from happening, he plotted to kill his accuser, Josephat Mwendwa.

This led to the murder of two more innocent Kenyans who were victims of circumstance. Sadly, we have continued to witness more killings by police and nothing much is being done about it. Some members of the Police Service have become so rogue, they consider themselves the law. They act arbitrarily and no one seems to care, not even their bosses, who come out guns blazing defending them while denying killings occasioned by the police.

The Police Service needs to acknowledge the existence of a serious crisis related to misuse of firearms and institute investigations to establish the cause as well as bring to book officers found culpable. This is the only way they can address this menace. I am, however, not oblivious of the many good and hardworking officers who serve serve the country diligently and patriotically.

Established bodies mandated with receiving complaints of police brutality and harassment from citizens, on the other hand, seem to be doing too little to arrest the situation. How long did it take IPOA to launch investigations against the said police officers and how did Leliman get wind of his impending investigation by the same agency, information that triggered his caprice actions?

Did International Justice Mission have to come through for Mwendwa and subsequently their employee Kimani as well as the taxi driver Joseph Muiruri, for justice to be served in their death? This sluggishness by these agencies and the continued denial of the extrajudicial killings by police bosses contribute to the rise in numbers of rogue officers who believe nothing can be done against them.

The death sentence meted against Leliman should serve as a reminder to officers of his ilk that they are not above the law and neither are they the law.

Ms Waiti is a Law student at University of Nairobi