The swift action to bring to book the four heavily armed police officers who on Monday battered a student during a protest against insecurity around the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology is commendable. That it comes following an outcry following the circulation of an amateur video of the brutality does not diminish its significance.
Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i and Inspector-General of Police Hillary Mutyambai did not sit back and wait to be informed through the official channels about this latest blot on the National Police Service. True to their numerous pronouncements, they have shown that such blatant abuse of office and brutality will never be condoned. Ironically, the victim, who was stamped on with heavy police boots, and clobbered with rifle butts and clubs, was among those demanding protection from criminals.
Students have been mugged and robbed near their campuses and reported the incidents to the university authorities and the nearby police stations, but the crimes continue. The law allows police to use reasonable force to subdue a suspect who resists arrest or in any way poses a threat to their own lives.
From the circulating video footage, there was no such threat. What we saw was criminal impunity and an unbelievable callousness. The student lay on the ground helpless and these well-trained adults were only too happy to kick him around.
Kenyans are questioning whether the much-touted police reforms have had any impact on the service. These brutes in uniform have no place in a civilised service, whose cardinal duty is to maintain law and order by pursuing and arresting criminals. This incident presents an opportunity to enforce the code of conduct and ensure civilised policing.