More needs to be done to end police impunity

A police officer kicks an unarmed person who had come to witness the swearing in of President William Ruto at the Kasarani Stadium. [Dennish Ochieng, Standard]

Three families were relieved of pain, anguish and tears of losing their loved ones in one of the most brutal manner after a six and a half years' pursuit for justice. They had lost a son, father or husband in the hands of the very individuals supposed to protect lives and property.

Lawyer Willie Kimani, his client Josephat Mwenda and taxi driver Joseph Muiruri may represent just about any Kenyan eking out a living on any ordinary day. But the cruel hand of impunity had armed police officers killing the three Kenyans in what horrified the nation nearly seven years ago.

Yesterday, the so-called 'Mavoko Beasts' were sentenced to death for their heinous act and attempt to conceal evidence and block justice. Evidence adduced in court was chilling and heartless. It demonstrated cruelty as witnesses demonstrated the actual murders.

The court had no sympathy in sending the officers to jail and one to the gallows for their inhumane act despite pleas for forgiveness. The manner in which promising lawyer Kimani was killed for representing Mwenda against police harassment and taxi driver Muiruri for witnessing the act, could get no reprieve from the court.

Although the punishment won't bring back to life the three victims, their families and friend will get a bit of closure. It will also serve as a huge lesson for fellow police officers that human life is sacred and extra-judicial killings have no place in Kenya. To be armed does not give you a licence to kill at will.

In the past, rogue police officers have executed suspects in disregard of the law and procedure, and got away with it. This is unacceptable and the lesson here is that the law, no matter how long, will always catch up with the killer officers.

While apprehending a suspect, there is reasonable force that a police officer can use. This does not include grievous bodily harm, torture or shoot-to-kill. In many instances, police officers have been accused of beating suspects into submission and causing irreparable damage sometimes leading to death.

Indeed, that is why the Independent Policing Oversight Authority was established to receive complaints against errant police officers. The body and several human rights bodies have put up a spirited fight against police brutality. There is still more work to be done.

While there are many helpful and diligent police officers in the National Police Service, there are still a few high-handed officers who think they are a law unto themselves. Indeed, some have made it their business to terrorise citizens and even extort money from them. Such officers have no station in the modern police set up and should be weeded out.

While at it, police officers must be well compensated, equipped properly to tackled criminals and well-motivated to handle crime trends. It is possible to have a just, caring and dedicate police service. But there is no space for police impunity and brutality.