It is common for police officers to patrol residential areas and arrest and detain those deemed to be lawbreakers.
However, police officers will henceforth have to exercise more caution when making such arrests if a recent high court decision is anything to go by.
The State will now have to pay Sh6.8 million in compensation to 20 people who were unlawfully arrested and detained by six police officers three years ago.
While making the award, Kajiado High Court Judge Reuben Nyakundi faulted police for unfairly infringing on their rights as arrested persons.
Justice Nyakundi ruled that “the award is not just a mere compensation for violation of their rights, but also to serve as a caution against such infringements in future”.
The judge ordered that each of the 19 people be paid Sh100,000 as general compensation and a similar amount as exemplary damages, while the lawyer who represented them in the case, Mr Stephen Nzaku, was awarded Sh3 million.
“The act of apprehending a person without notice, even if it is for a short period, has far-reaching effects on his or her rights,” Justice Nyakundi ruled.
On the fateful day, June 4, 2016, at about 9pm, the 19 were arrested around Tumaini Supermarket in Ongata Rongai, Kajiado County, while engaging in their normal businesses and bundled into a police vehicle.
While three of them were threatened by the said officers and warned against making any phone calls, two others defied those orders and went ahead to contact Mr Nzaku to come to their rescue.
On arrival, Mr Nzaku explained his reasons for showing up but he was first threatened by the same officers before being locked up for allegedly creating disturbance.
His clients were first held in the police vehicle until midnight when they were booked in a cell at Ongata Rongai Police Station for the offence of being idle and disorderly.
Mr Nzaku was released on a cash bail of Sh5,000 the following day.
The officers, who were all based at Ongata Rongai Police Station, denied having acted unlawfully.
According to the judge, courts ought to strongly condemn arbitrary use of police power on innocent citizens.
“Gone are the days when the marginalised members of our society were bundled into police cells under this rubric of offences, incapable of constituting any criminal elements,” he ruled.