OPINION: Abuse of power by Kenyan police or lack of gov’t regulation?


Traffic police. Photo/COURTESY
File image of Traffic police. Photo/COURTESY

In Summary

  • The Kenyan police continues to receive accusations of harassment, manhandling and mistreatment of the public in the guise of enforcing law and order.
  • Traffic police have, especially, been linked to such cases despite the assumption that there exists proper guidelines on how they should conduct themselves.
  • There have also been questions on how traffic police should handle motorists on the road as recent happenings have indicated that, almost inevitably, passengers are left stranded when a motor vehicle is stopped for violating minor traffic offences.

The Kenyan Police Service has in the recent past come under heavy criticism from the public due to the manner in which they conduct their operations.

One such notable instance is the Tuesday arrest of a Kenyan civilian identified as Njeri wa Muthoni, who was taken into custody after filming traffic police officers harassing a matatu passenger.

In the video captured by Njeri, three female traffic officers in full uniform are seen forcefully dragging a woman out of the front seat of a matatu supposedly plying the Kasarani –Nairobi CBD route while three other male officers look on.

Taking to Facebook on Tuesday morning, Njeri posted the 1:40-minute recording saying it had led to her arrest and that she was being taken to Kasarani Police Station.

The National Police Service Commission (NSPC) and Inspector General of Police Joseph Boinnet have since remained tight-lipped on the incident.

This has only served to make matters worse for the Kenyan police who continue to receive accusations of harassment, manhandling and mistreatment of the public in the guise of enforcing law and order.

Traffic police have, especially, been linked to such cases despite the assumption that there exists proper guidelines on how they should conduct themselves.

CAP. 84(2)(3) of the Police Act 14A. states;

“(2) No police officer shall subject any person to torture or to any other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”.

“(3) Any police officer who contravenes the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a felony.”

Despite the presence of the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (IPOA) — a body established to determine cases brought forward against the police — Kenyans at large still feel there is reluctance by the government to prosecute the men in uniform.

There have also been questions on how traffic police should handle motorists on the road as recent happenings have indicated that, almost inevitably, passengers are left stranded when a motor vehicle is stopped for violating minor traffic offences.

This in spite of a provision in the law that allows the imposition of instant fines and issuing of tickets that require an offender to appear in court and penalties on the same.

The Traffic Act CAP 105(1), allows for the inspection of a vehicle by police. The act further states that;-

It shall be lawful for any police officer in uniform to stop any vehicle, and for any police officer, licensing officer or inspector

(a) to enter any vehicle;

(b) to drive any vehicle or cause any vehicle to be driven;

(c) upon reasonable suspicion of any offence under this Act, to order and require the owner of any vehicle to bring the vehicle to him.

These laws have caused a rift between the public and the police as there has been little or no information to sensitize motorists and other road users.

And so the question that remains in the minds of most Kenyans is whether the police intentionally continue to harass and mistreat civilians because they know they can get away with it.

Granted, we have seen some police officers being arraigned in court, charged and hailed for various crimes but most of them are only in cases of public uproar and the crimes are fatal.

But what happens the day a traffic officer stops you on your way to Loitoktok and there is no network for you to tweet about it and amass public sympathy?

Only time will tell.

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