A growing list of cases of police misconduct across the country has prompted the National Police Service to start training its officers with the aim of ensuring that zero deaths occur as a result of police brutality during this year’s elections.
Latest statistics from the Independent Policing Oversight Authority (Ipoa) show that by the end of December last year, 141 cases of police misconduct had been presented in courts, with offences ranging from abduction to murder, rape and robbery with violence among other capital offences.
The number is growing as more cases have been approved by the Office of the Directorate of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) for prosecution this year, raising the need for the training that includes election security management and crowd control demos for General Service Unit (GSU) and general duty officers across the country.
“The training is in two phases and begins with commanders being trained to be trainers of trainers after which they are expected to cascade the skills to their juniors on the ground. The training is meant to equip officers with skills on how to better approach civilians when provoked to ensure maximum protection of lives and property,” explained Police Spokesman Bruno Shioso in an interview with the Nation.
In the training, the officers are reminded that their actions must be justifiable for they shall hold individual responsibility for any arising misconduct, Mr Shioso said.
They are also being guided on their roles in ensuring security of the elections right from the polling stations to the tallying centres and handling of complaints arising from the polls as contained in the election security management manual launched earlier this year.
Though there are areas that have been marked as violence hotspots, Mr Shioso said that all indications show that this year’s elections will be largely peaceful.
“There won’t be violence as there are no indications. I mean, things would have been very emotive by now but they are not. What is happening is normal politicking, there is nothing that is worrying us. Of course, there are a few instances we have seen like in Marsabit, Kisii and Nairobi but they have since been addressed,” he added.
Political seasons are however fluid and criminals including terrorists may take advantage of resulting chaos to commit crime.
Pick out threats
To avert such, Mr Shioso said covert monitoring of what is happening on the ground is actively ongoing to pick out threats that may spur violence and destabilise the country.
“Some of these operations are classified, there is a lot that happens behind the scenes that is not talked about. Kenyans [should] just know that they are safe; they do not know what happens behind the scenes and we do not want to scare them. They should just know that we are on top of things. We are moving very fast to areas where we spot a challenge,” he said.
Consequently, curfews have been declared in areas such as Marsabit and Kerio Valley to not only mop up illegal firearms but also ensure peace remains and locals have access to voting stations with ease come August 9.
In Kisii County, Police Constable Josphat Makori was arrested and charged with an attempt to injure by explosive during Azimio la Umoja rally at Kisii Stadium by throwing a tear gas canister to the podium where the coalition’s presidential running mate Martha Karua was speaking from.
The same has been replicated in Nakuru County where a special unit of the DCI was deployed to rein in on the Confirm gang that almost paralysed peace in the county with the murder of six women in a span of two weeks. Mr Shioso confirmed that a “clean up” of the gang is ongoing.
“We are also working very closely with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) through DCI officers seconded to the unit to assist in monitoring hate speech and investigating flagged cases. We are also assisting the commission in spreading targeted peace messaging across the areas that have been marked as hotspots,” said Mr Shioso.
In Nairobi County where slums have been flagged as violence hotspots, officers have been conducting the peace messaging atop pick-ups, urging locals to maintain peace ahead of the polls and even after.
Mr Shioso said the police service, in collaboration with the leading telcos, Google and leading social media platforms such as Facebook, has worked out a formula for sieving hateful content published online to avert violence.
“They came all the way from the US to help us get a working formula that we did not have in the past,” said Mr Shioso without disclosing what the formula is.
Additionally, all officers on leave were recalled back to duty beginning this month. Their roles in keeping peace during elections will be supplemented by officers from the Kenya Prisons Service, Kenya Wildlife Service, Kenya Forest Service, the National Youth Service and the National Government Administration officials countrywide.
“They will be deployed to support us in numbers and resources to make sure we secure the elections. So, we have no issues with numbers,” said Mr Shioso.
Though all candidates seeking security from the service have had officers seconded to them, Mr Shioso said there are deliberate efforts to ensure that female candidates are particularly secured while conducting their campaigns.
“We are encouraging the female candidates that feel threatened to come forward and request for security. We have worked with a few and they are happy and we have told our officers in the fields to cooperate with them,” he said.