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The fast-paced life and death of DCI's Special Service Unit

 The disbandment Special Service Unit. [DCI, Twitter]

On the eve of New Year in 2019, former DCI boss George Kinoti announced he had disbanded the dreaded flying squad unit on account of loss of public trust.

After pronouncing the death verdict on the squad, Kinoti directed that all officers who served in the unit be transferred and that their role taken over by the Special Crimes Prevention Unit, another specialised police unit in Nairobi.

The Special Crimes Prevention Unit (SCPU) was rebranded and renamed the Special Service Unit (SSU).

The idea was that the new squad would shed off its negative image and transform itself into a more people-friendly unit that would continue dealing with crimes such as robberies, carjacking's and other complex organised ones.

Pius Gitari was appointed the pioneer head of SCPU. The unit continued operating from the old Nairobi area DCI headquarters, same offices that hosted the condemned SCPU.

With a new name and broader mandate beyond Nairobi, the SSU became the premier police unit. Only seasoned investigators as well as highly trained officers with top of the range shooting skills were recruited into the elite unit.

To further make the unit more effective, the unit commanders enjoyed unfiltered access to the DCI boss. The unit commander reported directly to the Director of Operations at the DCI headquarters who was mandated to supervise the operations of the unit on a day to day basis.

Out of this, the activities of SSU remained highly secretive with details of their operations only known to select few at the top of DCI command.

Top crime busters known for their hard work and discipline were transferred to this new unit that was the envy of many of DCI officers who dreamt of working in specialised police units.

Three years down the line this week, the unit met a similar fate as their Flying squad. Last Sunday, President William Ruto said he had directed the disbandment of the SSU unit over allegations of engaging in murders and human rights abuse. "The police had deviated from the role of protecting Kenyans to killing them. That is why I gave an order that the SSU of the police be disbanded because it was killing Kenyans anyhow," the president said in Kericho.

Acting Inspector General of Police Noor Gabow had hours before Ruto's address announced the decision to disband the unit. Those in the know say the President, in making the decision, relied on a report by former National Police Internal affairs Unit Director Mohammed Mohamed Amin now the DCI boss.

Amin, who was tasked with investigating the mysterious disappearance of some Indian nationals and their Kenyan taxi driver, is said to have lifted the lid on the rogue operations of the SSU.

Amin and his team had in their report concluded that some rogue officers from this unit were behind the disappearance of Mohammed Zaid, Sami Kidwai Zulfiqra, Ahmed Khan and Kenyan Nichodemus Mwania Mwange.

They were reported missing on July 24 at Langata Police Station. The Indian nationals are said to have been part of the team dealing with Ruto's campaigns.

Langata DCI who investigated the matter presented a report to Gabow on September 16 and revealed that the investigators believed State agents were behind this abduction. This prompted the Acting IG to refer the matter to the Mohammed Amin-led Internal Affairs unit.

Sources familiar with the investigations told The Standard that the Amin investigations had unearthed serious ethical issues within the SSU. The findings which have since been presented to Ruto revealed that the missing men could have been victims of enforced disappearance in the hands of State agencies.

The IAU investigations reveled that vehicles belonging to the elite unit had been linked to the disappearance of the missing men.

Last evening, 11 officers from the elite unit who are part of the field operations team were directed to present themselves before IAU investigators next Monday to record statements over the missing men.

Last Friday, officers from the IAU presented two men in court where the police sought more time to investigate them over the missing individuals. The two men, who are said to be NIS officers, will now be detained by the police for 21 days pending investigations.

The two were arrested on suspicion that a car they co-own was used as a getaway vehicle in the abduction of the men. Investigators said in court that the police believe the two worked in cahoots with serving police officers and asked the court not to free them as this is likely to interfere with ongoing probe.

"From the time the applicant took over investigations, and in the course of gathering evidence, it has faced interference from serving public servants including police officers," an affidavit filed in court said in part.

Investigator told the court that the police are still trying to trace the missing men. Ruto has been closely following up on the matter.

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