By Sammi Nderitu
On the Standard Newspaper, Friday 15 April 2022, page 8, there is a picture of a police office holding a baby on one side and his G3 riffle on the other side, as the mother votes during the United Democratic Alliance’s nomination exercise in Eldama Ravine.
When the picture appeared on various social media sites among them Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, it elicited mixed reactions. Some praised the officer, Dennis Nyabuto, for exemplifying “a human face” in his work while others thought he should have been standing in an alert position with a watchful eye as voting went on.
Granted, police officers are human too and occasionally there will be images and video clips that will mellow people’s hearts based on what the officers have done. It is not a coincidence that that officer Nyabuto got praises for his “caring and affectionate nature” as some described his act. The police force in Kenya hasn’t been well known for exhibiting the “softer side” of humanity. As Douglas Lucas Kivoi, Principal Policy Analyst, Governance Department, The Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) noted in an article by conversation.com, a global platform that constitutes of 8 renowned universities in South Africa, Europe and America, “police brutality and impunity are nothing new in Kenya. They’re a legacy of British colonial rule when the role of the police was to protect the interests of the administration – not to serve the interests of the general populace.”
He added that the abuse and misuse of policing power has most often been seen during arrests, but also when officers are called in to stop protests or resolve disputes. Brute force has led to the loss of too many Kenyan lives and left many maimed for life.
As Kenya is prepares for the polls on 9th August 2022, the National Police Service (NPS) is certainly coming under sharp focus. A 2019 biometric registration drive that was conducted within NPS showed that Kenya has 101,288 police officers as it March 2019. Three years later, this number has certainly risen bearing in mind the various police recruitment that have happened since.
According to the Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), each poling center will require two armed police officers in order to ensure security of voters, agents and IEBC staff. It is therefore vital for the police to ensure that they stick to their role of enforcing the law and ensuring a conducive environment for voters to exercise their democratic rights.
The police, as an agency of the criminal justice system, have a major responsibility for dealing with serious crime, efforts should continually be made to improve the capacity of police to discharge this responsibility effectively. (The American Bar Criminal Justice (ABCJ).
It should also be recognized, however, that police effectiveness in dealing with crime is often largely dependent upon the effectiveness of other agencies both within and outside the criminal justice system. Those in the system must work together through liaison, cooperation, and constructive joint effort. This effort is vital to the effective operation of the police and the entire criminal justice system
At IMLU’s Elections Hub, with a mandate to undertake election monitoring, documentation reporting and response to human rights protection in public order management, and elections-related SGBV during election period, we call upon NPS to ensure that it sticks to its obligation. A free and fair election is guaranteed in an environment that is peaceful and secure.