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ELECTION 2022

Police officers to keep record of incidents at polling stations

NATIONAL
By Hudson Gumbihi | Feb 9th 2022 | 3 min read

 

Interior CS Fred Matiang'i addresses a press conference alongside security chiefs regarding security situation in the country and level of police preparedness ahead of 2022 General Elections, on Monday, January 24, 2022 [David Njaaga, Standard]

Police officers deployed to cover the General Election in August will have to keep a detailed record of all incidents at polling stations.

They will also document any material of evidential value that can be produced in a court of law.

These are part of guidelines contained in a handbook launched last Friday by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. It will be mandatory for officers covering the polls to have notebooks where they will capture details of events.

“The notebooks may be required to be produced in court and may be examined by the court. They will be retained until their destruction is ordered by the police commander,” states the handbook titled “Election Security Management Manual for Police Commanders.”

Every election cycle, police officers have been accused of being unprofessional, using excess force and sometimes taking sides.

They have also been blamed for failing to forestall and control violence. It is hoped the handbook is a timely tool for curing police shortcomings.

Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai is optimistic the handbook will curb some of the malpractices during elections. 

“It considers the potential impact of insecurity on the integrity of elections and provides a set of considerations regarding election security planning and management practices or procedures,” says the police boss.

In the manual, officers are expected to be proactive and prepare lists of rowdy groups, undesirable elements, criminal gangs or mischief mongers. Apart from identifying the hot spots, the law enforcers will conduct random and regular raids to recover offensive weapons, unlicensed and illegal arms.

Senior officers shall coordinate collection of intelligence relating to public gatherings, hate speech and incitement. The manual, however, cautions officers against abusing their powers or unduly interfering with the electoral process. It warns them against acting outside the law, displaying bias, obstructing campaign freedoms or voting rights, using their powers as a tool for intimidation, arbitrary arrests or detentions and use excessive force.

Besides guiding officers on how to manage public order, the handbook is aimed at broadening their understanding on physical security, protection of polling stations and tallying centres, protection of electoral materials and assets, protection of candidates, election officials, voters and monitors, and creating a safe and secure environment for citizens to cast their votes.

Further, the manual highlights some of the early warning signs of poll related violence. They include physical attacks, destruction of property, disruption of campaigns, presence of criminal gangs, verbal threats and use of inflammatory, abusive or derogatory language.

Possible causes of election violence have been identified as incitement, zoning of certain areas by candidates, political parties or criminal gangs, subjective reporting by the media, incitement through social media and misinformation amongst supporters of different political sides.

“I am very delighted to release this manual as a testimony of determination of the National Police Service to put in place necessary measures for the maintenance of law and order,” said Mutyambai.

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